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. JakeH

    Like many people, I find the verdict both correct and disturbing. Correct in that the State took the case in a direction that was unsupportable with the evidence at hand. The jury got it right. Disturbing in that the State could have let itself be manipulated by the various bloviating bimbo's like Nancy DisGrace into trying to make a Murder One case out of the paucity of direct hard evidence at hand. CNN and it's affiliate networks used to be worthy of praise and support for their accurate, factual reporting. What happened??? Why are bubble heads like Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace paid a salary to puke their drivel all over CNN's reputation? Where's Ted Turner when we need him. He'd have whacked these stupid bimbo's up side the head with a 2 x 4 years ago.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Juroff

      I made two posts earlier tonight that basically criticized both of the CNN TV lawyers you mention, without even mentioning their names, and both posts were taken down. I didn't swear or use foul language, just expressed and opinion, and the posts were up only for a little while, then removed. So, not only is CNN losing their credibility, they don't want to hear about it either.

      July 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MB

    Please, CNN, replace Nancy Grace with someone intelligent like Jeffrey Toobin. Grace has been a disgrace throughout this whole trial. Her presence lowers CNN as a viable news organization. Could Grace work at the New York Post? Certainly. The New York Times or some other media outlet with a great reputation? No way.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • kmz0212

      I could not agree with you more. Nancy Grace is a disgrace to CNN. They should fire her for all of her big mouth rampages for the last three years that she put in our faces night after night. She is the one that nicknamed Casey Anthony "TOT MOM" and she had no right. She is a mother just like Grace is and even though yes she did lie no one is saying that she didn't does not make her a killer. If she did not want the responsibility of raising Caylee, she would have let her parents take her, she would have put her up for adoption or she would have given her to someone that wanted children, she would not have just killed her so that she could party day and night. The jury made the right call and I am proud of our justice system.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Pd

      I agree with you.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. solobo

    Three cheers for the jury. They had the courage and the smarts to render the only verdict they could: Casey Anthony was inocent of the major counts against he because the prosecution presented spurious evidence at best. Heresay, inuendo, and voodoo forensics don't make a case. Casey cannot be retried for any of these charges. To be sure, I have few doubts that the dysfuntional nature of the Anthony family was directly related to Caylee's premature death. I think it is entirely plausible that George and Cindy Anthony had a role in the death of their granddaughter. Casey was likely out dancing and getting while George and Cindy were perhaps sipping one too many drinks or glasses of wine to notice that Caylee had sneaked into the pool. They family paniced and tried to cover up the death. Hopefully Casey's parents will also be charged with failure to notice the police and obstructing justice. Glad this trial is over. Jeff Toobin, you are right on in saying that the media focused too much attention and too many resources to the case and the trial. HLN showed nothing but the trial for past three months. Is the vituperative, viscious-spirited, and vacuous Nancy Grace the only staff member still working HLN. Come on folks get a life and stop being OCD about stories like this one.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • wil7483

      She wasn't found innocent, she was found "not guilty". There is a difference. Innocent means that you have not committed a crime, not guilty means that you have not been proven to have committed a crime from the evidence that has been presented against you.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • kmz0212

      I have to also agree with you. The night that this happened if it happened on June 16th, Casey was probably out partying and the father was celebrating a little too much with the wine because after all it was Father's Day I believe. I have said from day one that I did not believe that Casey killed Caylee and today my feeling was confirmed by 12 other people. I cannot see a mother not wanting a child. The pictures and the testimony showed that Casey loved Caylee very much and adored her.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • petershaw

      u r a stupid person... you are so wrong...

      July 6, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Iamgr82day

      Actually, since there is a presumption of innocent in the US legal system until proven guilty she has been found by a jury to be innocent by the rendering of a not guilty verdict. This country is losing its sense of fair play. With every thing that happens that we do not like, every verdict that we do not agree with, every anomoly that happens in the world, we as a nation want to rush to change the system. We want to rig the jury or change the laws to ensure more guilty verdict, we want to give up our rights with regard to legal system because a jury did not reach the same conclusion as the majority of Americans... A mojority whose opinion was swayed by a less that impartial media. The loudest of the media is a former prosecutor no longer constrained by the same rules of a prosecution and legal system that is to be fair and allow the defendant their day in court. We allow the media to be the final determination of what we should think and allow them to filter the truth through the lens of that which fits in media's agenda rather than reporting the facts and letting us make the analysis. It has created a nation of intellectually lazy slaves. We glue ourselves to the personalities of the tv and forget that we are able to look at thing rationally and make a different conclusion. We surrender to the personalities on television and assume that they are all knowing because they happend to espouse a point of view we tend to agree with or feel to inept to come up with on our own. We are no longer capable of dispassionate and open minded thought. We, as a nation, are no longer capable of accepting an outcome we do not agree with when produced by a system that was designed to be as fair as possible. We, as a nation, incarcerate more citizens per capita than any other nation. Clearly the outcome of the system is usually to incarcerate. We are either a nation of criminals or a nation that tends to favor prosecution. So when the prosecution loses, we can safely assume they just did not have a good case at all. So, because she was found not guilty of the charges, we have to assume in good faith that she was innocent of the charges because we are to presume innocence until proven guilty. She may be guilty of something, but she is innocent of the charges she was tried for... except the ones relating to lying to police. The public needs to accept this and move on because that is our civic duty.

      July 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. timwarren82

    Please get rid of Nancy Grace. If Fox can get rid of Glenn Beck, you can do the same.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shirley from Nevada

    Caller: "To begin with I must say I love your show Nancy... and your twins are just adorable".

    Nancy: "Awe... Thank you Dear. What's your question?

    [Side note this is a prerequisite to make a comment on HLN]

    Caller: "Nancy....Dear..... you did more harm in this case than good. Your ego and agressiveness led to no justice for Casey. Because of your continual attacking "Tot Mom" and over the top media attention these Lawyers and Investigators worked probono (free) or from the Latin meaning "for the public good" to defeat.... you. Without you, with a lesser attorney Casey would have been a slam dunk for the State".

    The symbol for justice is a lady wearing a blindfold, for objectiveness, and holding a balance scale for weighing the supprt versus the opposition. Maybe you could learn from this depiction... not objective, not balanced.... you are definately no lady ..justice.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    This country has a army of hack writers who call themselves "journalists." Journalism is one profession that has no minimum standards. Any eighth grade drop out with a pencil and piece of paper can call himself a journalist.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sound minded and educated American

      Yeah what gets me is all the typos, mistakes, lies, or misinformation in our "news". These clowns have the audacity to criticize everyone under the sun. They then have blooper segments poking fun of a president's grammar. It's absolutely horrendous that some of this filth is protected under free speech. How many wars have started because a reporter lied?

      July 6, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. rockforeveron

    Why are they making this about Michael? The FBI, DCFS, 2 grand juries and then the last 1 in 2005 all reached the same verdict about Michael – not guilty. Why is he still on trial by the media? When does it stop? When they finally find the smoking gun that 120 search warrents and mulitple trips to countries all over the world for victims and special websites set up for victims and $10-20 million dollars worth of Santa Barbara money couldn't buy? What is justice anymore?

    Until the media gets the verdict they wanted?

    Michael is dead – is that not enough for them?

    July 6, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. BJ Smith

    It is ironic, an alternate jury stated they believed the defense opening, which was totally made up, not evidence in any way, & rejected the huge amount of evidence presented by prosecution. He also said they all believed George lied about everything. Remember Baez saying, "there's something wrong here", over & over. A huge majority feel there is something very wrong with this jury verdict.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    Now, suppose Casey had been a black male. How would that turn out? A jury will not convict a white female in a death penalty state. Especially a cute white female who has been trained by her lawyer to cry while testifying.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Sound minded and educated American

      You or your troll must be black if you think she's cute. She looks like a mouse. Up your standards patnah. As your feeble mind forgot to notice there are many "whites" angry about this, but that's ok cuz she's white. We just can't get angry if she's black, because that would be racist. Way to inject the race card trolly.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • nmlawyer

      3 words: Carla Faye Tucker.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. friend

    Um, do we ever deem a person innocent or not innocent in a court of law? So why do people say that dumb stuff about not guilty doesn't mean innocent. That's stupid.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • nmlawyer

      What?? No, we don't call people innocent or not innocent, that is the point. People say that not guilty doesn't mean innocent because it doesn't. Juries don't determine whether a person is guilty or innocent. They determine whether or not the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime charged, or not. If the state did prove each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury is required to find the person guilty. if not, the jury is required to find the person not guilty. At no point is there an instruction to determine whether or not the person is innocent.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EthicalinFortWorth

    Thank God for this jury that fulfilled its charge in a serious and responsible manner. Yes, the media does need to do some serous soul-searching to eliminate this trash it puts out by so-called attorneys, chief among them any blonde former prosecutor whose history of professional misconduct is a DIS"grace" to the justice system and decent prosecutors. When are they going to realize that this immoral and unethical to continue trying of defendents in the media based on opiniion stirred by emotional pleas rather than facts? Clearly the these talking heads sold themselves out for the big-bucks is to exploit the emotions of well-intentioned viewers. What they put on TV is not about justice for any victims, it's about how much money they can generate for themselves and the network executives-greed and exploitation! It's about trading justice for profittable entertainment. Any attorney really worth their salt would not hang slanderous nicknames such as Totmom. This is seriously out of control behaviour, so YES, soul searching is greatly needed, as well as impartial and responsible journalism.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. rose

    If it was an accidnet and her father helped cover it up ! Why has he not been on trial for this case. Something fishy there. If Casey is telling the truth and her father did abuse her, what's there to stop him from abusing the child as well? Maybe he is guilty of murder and is covering it up! Maybe that's why he tried to kill himself. Maybe his wife is covering up for him. Some women do that because they don't want to believe their husband could do such a thing. Just to easy to blame your daughter for this isn't it Dad.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Not Proven

    In Scotland they have the verdict Not Proven which means we 'think' you are guilty but we cannot prove it. The choices are Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven. Double Jeopardy is not appropriate in this case and Not Proven is definately the most appropriate outcome. Not proven has a great deal of negative connetations connected with it so you are forever labelled with "you got away with murder". Someone will come out of the woodwork one day and say I saw Casey dumping a bag in the swamp. But she is judged not guilty forever which is sad. She is definately not 'Not Guilty'. The State did not show she was 'Guilty' so how about Not Proven? No Double Jeopary and then a weight around the 'likely' murder's neck for the rest of their life waiting to see if there will be real justice for Caley.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Allan

      So "Not Proven" leaves a case open indefinitely? Interesting concept.. Hey I thought we had the best system in the world?

      July 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iamgr82day

      The idea of Not Proven goes against our belief that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Not Proven implies that a person is guilty until proven innocent. This concept shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. The state has nearly unlimited resources to assist in gaining a conviction. If they can't prove thier case, we must error on the side of the defendant and assume there is no guilt for the charges. In reality, must defendants have little or no resources in which they can call on to mount a defense. Though the system was designed to error on the side of the defendant, the reality is that they system probably convicts more innocent people than it does find guilty people not guilty. My personal opinion is that if the state can't prove the case, then the person is to be found not guilty and set free since a defendant already has much going against them, guilty or innocent, before ever stepping foot into the court room.

      July 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Professor J

    This evening, Jesse Grund's father was attempting to shed light on what he called Cindy Anthony's "abusive" behavior toward Casey to help us understand how she might have become capable of this terrible deed. He was ready to offer potentially fascinating insight into this crazy family–but Nancy Disgrace cut him off because she needed to trash Casey for being lazy and crazy. We've heard that. We know that.

    More importantly, she is not intelligent enough to guide anyone through understanding the real legal issues at stake. No viewer comes away more informed about the judicial system. Same with that other woman. I don't mind opinion, but I want informed opinion rather than name-calling.

    She's awful.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Janice Rector Spurgeon

    I have to say this I think the jury didn`t want to stay around anymore and wanted to get it over with so they let a murderer that needs to be put in a mental hospital and sterilized and find out what is wrong and anyone that gets with her or has anything to do with her is just as crazy as she is and I hope she realizes that she will have her day in front of the main judge one day and it won`t be pretty, all I can do is pray for her soul and hope people use their head and not have anything to do with her and never let her keep their children and all men stay away from her because she may lie on them too, and this jury just let people know it is okay to kill your child and lie your way out of it.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
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