July 5th, 2011
08:18 PM ET

Toobin: Media should soul-search after Anthony verdict

The news media should reflect on its coverage of Casey Anthony after the Florida woman was found not guilty of murder in her daughter’s death, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

But he added the verdict also helps show that intense media coverage doesn’t necessarily lead to juries that are eager to convict a defendant.

Toobin’s comments came after Anthony attorney J. Cheney Mason - after Anthony’s acquittal Tuesday - blasted what he called “incompetent talking heads” and a “media assassination” of Anthony.

Mason said that “colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don’t know a damn thing about and don’t have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it.”

National media coverage of the case began in July 2008, the month that 2-year-old Caylee Anthony’s family reported her missing. The coverage was spurred in part by reports the family hadn’t reported the girl missing until a month after she was last seen; the child’s remains were found in a wooded area later that year.

Toobin said he doubted Mason’s team would take legal action against the talking heads Mason railed against, saying the matter “will be dealt with appropriately in the court of public opinions.” But Toobin said it was safe to say that some media coverage was “very much negative toward Casey Anthony.”

“The media’s performance will be something we should all discuss,” Toobin said.

Former prosecutor Nancy Grace, whose show on CNN sister network HLN has featured the case extensively, defended the media coverage. "I find it interesting that his first reaction was to attack the media like we had something to do with it," she said. "We didn't have anything to do with it; this was all tot mom."

She added, "There is no way that this is a verdict that speaks the truth." Also Tuesday, Grace said that “as the defense sits by and as their champagne toast after that not guilty verdict, somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight.”

Attorney Debra Opri, arguing that the media is the “13th juror,” said lawmakers may want to see “what steps … we have to take, without stepping on the First Amendment, to protect” defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

Toobin said government regulation isn’t necessary, and that the Anthony trial and other high-profile cases show that media scrutiny doesn’t necessarily lead juries to issue convictions.

“(Opri’s) argument … is that the media had too much influence. You know, Nancy Grace was on TV for three years saying (Anthony) was guilty, and the jury said otherwise,” Toobin said. “Michael Jackson – also acquitted (of child molestation in 2005). O.J. Simpson – also acquitted (of murder in 1995). William Kennedy Smith – also acquitted (of rape in 1991)."

Tom Mesereau, an attorney for Jackson in the entertainer's 2005 case, concurred.

"I think this defense team focused on the courtroom, not the media. The media likes to think that they're going to influence these verdicts, and look at the history," Mesereau told CNN's "In the Arena" on Tuesday night, citing the Jackson and Simpson cases, as well as the 2005 trial of actor Robert Blake, who was acquitted of murder.

Toobin said that if media coverage affected the trial, the influence might have been seen in the prosecution's decision to make this a death penalty case.

"(This) always seemed like a wrong decision to me, given the ... absence of a cause of death (and) a time of death," Toobin said. "To make this a death penalty case sounded to me like the prosecutors had been spending too much time listening to people on cable news being outraged about the case rather than evaluating the evidence in the cold light of reality, and I think that was where the media influence was, more than in how the jurors behaved."

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Filed under: Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • Florida • Justice
soundoff (399 Responses)
  1. GiGi

    the media will try to convict someone in the court of public opinion if they think there is money to be made by doing so. they will also lie about, distort and suppress information revealed in the courtroom if that information does not help them make the money they think they will off a conviction. the 24 hour news system is also flawed because it causes journalists to rush to press after hearing prosecution accusations, to be the first in with the scoop, without waiting to see how the defense does or does not expose whatever lies/inaccuracies may be coming from the prosecution's corner.
    This is exactly, for instance, what happened to Michael Jackson. The media knew it stood to collectively make billions of dollars, as it had been doing for years already, off slandering, making up lies and suppressing the truth about Mr. Jackson and hopefully forcing a conviction in 2005 by doing so – which would lead to literally billions then being made reporting whatever minutiae they could, or could invent, about Jackson in prison.
    If the public had ever been told the truth about the extortion and attempted extortions of Michael Jackson by grifters and dead-beat fathers alike, they would have been enraged and disgusted at the way a corrupt DA with a vendetta had trumped up charges against Jackson in 2005 using criminal sleazebags as his "witnesses" for said charges. They would have been revolted at the massive amount of taxpayers money used by this DA to hunt down a gentle, innocent artistic genius on charges the DA virtually invented – he arbitrarily changed the dates of the said offenses occurring when the accusers were proven to be lying from the get-go because the "offenses" could not have possibly occurred when they insisted they did.
    The public would have had the DA incarcerated for the travesty instead of helping, as we did, bully to death a wonderfully eccentric genius and innocent man. However the "media" had been guaranteeing for years that Jackson became America's favorite scapegoat with their relentlessly vicious slander campaign against him, and made a TON of money doing so, by appealing to what is most low in human nature. Nothing like screaming and hating at a black genius for unfounded, unsubstantiated salacious rumors to take our attention away from, say, the real outrage of the environmental disasters we're staring in the face with our intentionally blind eyes – FOR EXAMPLE.
    the "news" used to truth-tell and help safeguard us against corporate corruption. the corporations now own the news and are leading us by the nose over a cliff we are willingly lead to, because we're terrifically uninformed about what an untrustworthy arm of unconscionable corporations the "news" has become. People like Nancy Grace are wonderful (big) mouthpieces for these dangerous mega-companies. That's why she has her job. Her lack of conscience, amply demonstrated in her untruthful coverage of the Jackson trial alone, makes her a perfect minion for them.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    Nancy Grace is spending 24/7 on this. It's over! She says it's to help Caylee. Here's an idea, Nancy. How about reporting on any one of the dozens of children that have gone missing this week? Want to do something you've never done before? Report on a non-white little boy that has gone missing. No matter how long you stay in Florida, the verdict is still going to be the same. Your prediction will (once again) be 100% wrong. You should be used to getting it wrong after all the other cases you've mis-called over the years (remember Jon Benet?). Get over it! So Marcia Clark agrees with you. Nobody cares. Get some t-shirts made that say "Loser Ex-Prosecutors Club" for the two of you and get out of Florida. Go back to exploiting the shady death of your ex-fiancee (Casey's not the only one to benefit from the mysterious death of a discarded loved one, is she Nancy?) and leave the potential jurors untainted by your continued tirades.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Lajuan

      Love it!

      July 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher Caldwell

      Very well said. If Casey gets a book deal, or makes millions, you can also trace this to Nancy Grace, and all the talking heads with the constant promotion. They turned her into a celebrity. Media has made millions off Caylee's death. And what's with all the protestors? Don't they have jobs? Responsibilities? Perhaps children at home? We seem like we are becoming as depraved as ancient Rome.

      July 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • S. Kelly

      HEY BOB ... As a matter of fact, Nancy Grace has highlighted 320 missing persons, half of them children, and all in just the past year.Just because she stopped the presses for 6 weeks during the trial, does not mean she has not highlighted missing children. And by the way ... what have you done lately to find missing children? The answer is NOTHING. And that means you ARE NOT QUALIFIED to speak on the matter. Your time would be better spent trying to figure out this riddle ... Casey Anthony left the house with the baby at 1 PM. She turned up at her boyfriend's house at 6 PM without the baby. We know that both grandparents were at work ... so what happened to Caylee? Next, in a 2009 interview on 48 Hours, Linda Kenney Baden, one of the DEFENSE ATTORNEYS, said on TV ... "A stranger killed Caylee". But the year before in 2008, Baez said ... "The nanny abducted her." ... Then in 2011, the story morphed again to ... "She died in the pool." So, since the defense FED LIES to the jury, the jury based their decision ON A LIE. But hey, that's okay ... Don't worry, be happy. Bella Vita. Casey Anthony will soon meet THE JURY ON THE STREET. LOL

      July 9, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeepers

    I do agree that the media had a large hand in this, especially after reading that ABC News paid $200,000 towards her defense, which may very well have paid for Werner Spitz or any of the other paid witnesses and had an impact on the verdict. I'll admit to getting sucked into it, but I'd have been just fine never hearing Casey Anthony's name, and maybe that sweet little baby girl would have gotten some justice for what happened to her.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Please please please, she obviously killed her new born for whatever reason. The truth isn't always determined in court, now is it?.... We have countless examples of that in this country, the country that cares more about human rights than human life.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
    • equality4all

      Bill, just a reminder...without Human Rights, a Human Life is just an existence.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KNNVirginia

    Nancy is just small part of media.
    the technique today is more spread out, peoplecan watch and follow a news any where , any times.
    Like I watch the whole case direct in the computers , research and listen the news ..... all the times.
    Media today know like jurors do .... ... so they have their own view to look at the case.
    Jurors can be stress to get home, but people don't.
    Jurors just like some of us , lack of pay attention and have to be there to convict .... so they may just guessing ...

    July 8, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. JP

    seriously, the media? sorry but the interest in this case was struck when florida had reported a little girl has been missing for 31 days.....then it only grew from there. Blame nancy and whoever else you would like all you want–but the truth is this started as genuine concern for a missing adorable little girl. and i think that this has still ended with people who have genuine concern about children–children can't protect themselves like adults can and when a mother does not immediately call the cops the minute her daughet is missing is complete NEGLECT and BS. I am sorry but if i thought my child was in endanger or missing i would have called someone–panic or not, you dont conceal and lie about what happened–trauma or no trauma your motherly instincts trump any of the dumb excuses she pulled.

    July 8, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marie

    Put Nancy Grace back into a court room. You wouldn't want to have to battle her in court. She knows just like the rest of us who have followed this from day one.....CASEY KILLED THAT CHILD........PERIOD. I hope these 12 jurors dream about this little girl tossed into a swamp with a duct tape over her mouth and her little body being gnawed upon by animals. Jury of peers ??? Really ? What were they doing the whole trial? Crossword puzzles ? In a coma ? Geez my 9 yr old had enough common sense to figure out Mommy did it and was very upset when he found out she is going to get away with it. That's it....maybe jurors should be under the age of say 12 because they seem to have a higher IQ.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • D


      July 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • shortyellowbus


      July 8, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sjbror

    people, what is your problem here? the prosecution did NOT prove their case and the jury DID their job. the ONLY thing the prsecution proved was that she PARTIED. she is guilty of partying. not one shred of evidence proved that she killed her daughter.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil Esteen

      Exactly. What everyone forgets is the "beyond a reasonable doubt" part. The prosecution had very little hard evidence. American justice was served because the jury performed as it was instructed. They can't and shouldn't convict based on hearsay, thank goodness.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. terri sherry

    Nancy, Vinnie,Jane, Dr. Drew,(the sell out) their 'look at me, look at me' media whoring only served one purpose...the purpose they all claimed to want the most, that being justice for Caylee. I was too busy being angry at the way they created a circus out of this trial soch so that Caylee took a back seat... I am ashamed of this. No more cameras in the courtroom.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • terri sherry

      so much so my puter keyboard is doodoo,

      July 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. musings

    I don't have any problem with Nancy Grace's indignation during the pre-trial phase, the investigation into the death. What is of concern is the sense that somehow the State has the right to jail or execute someone on intuition. I don't think the jury thought she was innocent. You don't find someone innocent, you find them not guilty because the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, guilty (as charged) beyond the shadow of a doubt. The judge can instruct the jury in this as well.

    Intuitively we know a lot of things, but we cannot exercise the power of the State to punish those we feel intuitively have violated the law. Injustice exists, but we decided a long time ago, it was better to have a system which rationally applied the law then to go off on the flights of fancied justice. Justice depends on belief, and belief is a matter of intuition. Sometimes it can be shown to have been wrong. But in this case, if the law had been improperly applied and she had been found guilty by the jury, Casey Anthony would have had the right to appeal the verdict and a judge would have ordered a new trial or set her free anyway.

    I felt sure OJ was guilty and not some drug gang. I think most people now believe that another acquitted person, Lizzie Borden (1880's New Bedford, Massachusetts) was guilty. But in neither case had the prosecution met its burden to the satisfaction of the jury. Since there is no double jeopardy, if you are acquitted in American or British common law, you cannot be held and retried by the state. Otherwise – what would the procedure mean? Intuition would rule the day. That is another name for faith/authority/force without check.

    July 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ken Hoffman

    Not a big Casey supporter ... But wonder how much personal enrichment Nancy received on the back of this tragidy of this dead child.

    July 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Willa45

    It's appallingly irresponsible for the likes of Nancy Grace and her ilk, to make malicious comments that are so inflammatory, that even the jurors now worry about their personal safety. The outrage and anger that some people are expressing has become akin to a lynch mob. Inciting the public with angry negativity, subjective opinions, speculation and innuendo can be inherently dangerous. At best, it is not responsible journalism..

    July 8, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • HAT in OPF

      Willa, it isn't a matter of not being a professional journalist. What you describe is not journalism at all. It is television – just entertainment wrapped in the guise of news.

      Any professional journalist would be embarrassed by association with a former lawyer who does little more than pontificate in the search for ratings and the entertainment dollar.

      Toobin's post-game analysis is a little late. It would have been less hypocritical of him to do this two or three years ago, when the media began making the Anthony family stars on the nightly news. He was happy to join in until after the verdict and criticism began. Lead the way, Toobin, don't jump on a late bandwagon and pretend you're its moral direction.

      July 9, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. shortyellowbus


    July 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. windblows

    Now Nancy wants every Tom, Dick, and Harry to sue Casey. The state did not need to spend so much money on this case and they did not need to over-charge the defendant. They lost money because they wanted the show. They added the death penalty for personal gain. Now the prosecutor wants to come out and take the high road. Why did he not take the high-road before? Why did he over-charge her?

    July 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. t elia

    How can people calm down if the media is covering this issue 24/7 showing cute pictures of Caylee with sound bites of Casey saying, "I don't care" over and over again. Many of these reporters have invested several years into Casey's verdict just to find themselves unsatisfied, cheated, bitter and confused.

    Now, I am not a religious person but I do believe Casey has been left alive by a higher power and I'm interested to see what kharm has in store for her. Casey will forever look over her shoulder and fear the unknown around every corner – that is the life sentence she faces.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
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