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. Justice for Nancy Grace

    Nancy Grace had much early on without evidence convicted and condemned Casey. And over the last three years has mounted a constant public opinion smear campaign against her. Now that Casey has been acquitted, it is time to put Grace on trial for recklessly inciting the public and slandering Casey while reaping the profits and rewards from her ill-begotten increase in viewership.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      The woman Casey was found not guilty but that doesn't mean she didn't do it it means that it wasn't proven. I believe she did it somehow but I can't prove it so what do you do. Hopefully she learned a lesson and will never do something like that again. Anyone that has anything to do with her better be careful she is a proven be a pathological liar.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jesse

    there is a reason courts work with the presumption "prove beyound a resonable doubt." and there was a resonable doubt to it.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I agree totally, but the thing is, that there was NOT a single cold piece of evidence in this case. Procecutors trying to get someone convicted of first degree murderer without a single piece of cold evidence should be laid off, or even better put before a judge themself for misconduct. What a low level of procecutors provided by the state of Florida, and all paid by hard working tax payers money.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • nmlawyer

      What are you talking about not a cold piece of evidence? There was enough evidence to to make a trial last for weeks. A grand jury found that there was probable cause. The prosecutors had a good faith basis to proceed. I'm assuming there was a directed verdict motion after the state's case in chief and the judge found that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a reasonable juror could find that she was guilty of the crimes charged and they would be sent to the jury for that determination. What in the hell is a cold piece of evidence??!

      July 8, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. TommyKnockerz

    Good God, I CAN'T STAND Nancy Grace. In fact, I HATE THAT B**CH!!!!!! She's judgmental, arrogant, stupid and she has no business being in a court room. I know what damage the media can do so for Nancy Grace to say "we didn't have anything to do with it; this was all Tot mom." I spent 5 years in the Army, in 82nd Airborne Division. I fought in Iraq during Desert Storm but I was also attached to 7th Special Forces Group. I watched the news MANY times and found out before we were even told that we were being deployed. Many of these times, they even had it down to the specific unit. I believe in Freedom of the Press but there are things that the media has NO BUSINESS reporting certain things and military deployments are one thing and ANYTHING regarding crimes against children. We just don't need to hear about these things until AFTER there is a verdict. Now, I could be wrong about the time. Maybe after the verdict isn't the right time but there just needs to be some common sense. Maybe they can just hold back some of the information. The public just DOES NOT need to know everything the second it happens. I realize that people, especially young people, are getting more and more impatient because of computers. These days we have answers to questions at our finger tips at any point in time. We don't have to wait for anything and that's making our young people extremely impatient and even people my age, I'll just round it down to 30's.....lol. Even people my age are getting impatient because everything is at our fingertips.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Media has no place in a courtroom, and especially not in a high profile case, where emotions run high and causes people to loose their sense of judgement. A good judge would have closed the doors, and not allowed any media coverage on live tv. A good judge would never have taken on a first degree murder trial with absolutely not a single piece of cold evidence. It is a disgrace. American justice system have completely failed here.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. James Saunders

    Where was the biological father during all of this??

    July 6, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      He was killed in a car accident.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. thomas Maddox

    Nancy Grace is a disgrace to our Judicial system,she must have been a very poor prosecutor. CNN, when she is on the program I change channels. This comment is consistent with other people's thoughts as well.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • BONNIE


      July 6, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. K McCauley

    The first person to "soul-search" should be CNN's Nancy Grace – a short task since there's nothing to search. Is there anyway to get this shrill harpy to take Anthony's place in Florida's electric chair?

    July 6, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rick

    The bottom line here is little innocent girl was killed, and that is truly horrible. As for the media and how they portrayed everything that too is essentially pretty horrible. Nancy Grace is a complete joke. With that said, if people didn't watch her ignorant tv show she would be nothing. I used to be a pretty avid CNN watcher but then I started seeing too much of this woman, all she would talk about was her kids, and whatever new book she would release. She dragged this woman on trial through the mud from what I have gathered and heard and it is only to get ratings. Who died and made Nancy (Dis)grace judge and jury. I would have possibly an ounce of respect for her if she would apologize to Casey Anthony for all she said about her, where in a court of law, not public opinion, was found not guilty. CNN puuuuhlease, there has to be omeone else out there you can make money off of that brings more to the table than Nancy (Dis)grace.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      A healthy court system would never take on a murderer trial based on a theory and with NO piece of cold evidence.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Procecutors could NOT provide a single piece of evidence, not a single piece of evidence, so you can not even say, that the child was murdered. Not a single sign of a murder was proven. Most experienced experts were called in and they did not find a single proof of a murder, or any sign of a murderer.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Larry Croft

    This case was no different than any of the other murders across the country until the media made it a high-profile case.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael

    I followed most of the trial on CNN live TV, and I had heard nothing about the case prior.

    I was not aware of all the media hysteria going on for about 3 years, I knew nothing about that.

    Let me be clear: Justice was done.

    There was absolutely NO evidence of Casey Anthony being a murderer, or child abuser, no evidence what so ever.

    Casey Anthony may have killed her child, and Casey Anthony may have abused her child,

    however I find that very unlikely, and unfortunately the trial did not reweal, what "really" happened to the little girl.

    How did the child die ? Was it a pool accident, or a reckless killing ?

    Somebody knows for sure, but no one wanted to tell it on the stand.

    I do not believe any "normal" mother would be able to kill her little lovely girl of age 2.

    And Casey Anthony was tested possitive for being "normal".

    Bottom line is: you can NOT convict someone if you do not have the evidence proving it,

    so I must say that I was stunned be the lack of evidence provided by the procecutors.

    The procecutors only had a theory which they tried to prove by LIES.

    Can you believe it ? They tried to prove LIES by appealing to emotions and speculations and likelyhood of what might have happened.

    The lady from the procecutors team, Linda something, pulled out all her big guns of female intuition to get a another female convicted,

    guilty of first degree murderer, NOT having a single proof of it. The whole procecutors team should be procecuted for filing a

    first degree murderer case based on an untrue theory with not a single piece of cold evidence.

    It is unbelievable that any judge would allow a trial to start based on a theory with no evidence.

    I say lies, because they could not prove their theory in any way, the theory that Casey Anthony used duct tape and chloroform to kill her child.

    Procecutors could not even prove a motivation from Casey Anthony to do so.

    The procecutors spend, I would guess, millions of dollars on this case, on a theory,

    they used high tech experts and labs and alot of other expensive stuff,

    and procecutors were NOT able to come up with a single cold piece of evidence.

    The Casey Anthony trial is disgrace of hard paid tax payers money.

    The Casey Anthony trial is a digrace to the State of Florida, and a disgrace to America, because of the low level of procecutors.

    It is so sad that the little girl is not alive any more.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tracie

    I love how Nancy Grace was picking apart all the jurors one by one tonight on TV by telling all of her viewers that one had a DUI and another was a high school drop out. WHO CARES??? What are you getting at? Apparently in Nancy's fantasy world, the only reason Casey was acquitted was because there were people with questionable pasts on the jury. Are you kidding me? We all have a past and some skeletons in our closets, but that certainly does not mean that we can't sit on a jury in a case of this magnitude. Nancy needs to get off her high horse and stop making excuses as to why Casey was freed. Look at the facts of the case. Those searches on the computer show nothing when you don't have a cause of death. NOTHING! There is no evidence that she planned anything. The jury took their role seriously and stuck to the evidence in this case. I personally feel Casey did have something to do with the death of Caylee, but the state did not prove it and there is nothing that Nancy or anyone else can do about it now. It is time to move on and let this be a harsh lesson to all the media to take a different approach God forbid there is another high profile case like this ever again.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • brian

      I have no clue where she got their info from because the judge said at the end of the verdict that he would not be releasing ANY of their names and for people to respect their privacy ....so if nancy grace had that info on people maybe she should have to answer to a judge ?

      July 6, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      A healthy court system would never take on a first degree murder trial based on a theory and with NO piece of cold evidence. It is a disgrace.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. huxley

    I don't see how government regulation could ever work. We should always be careful restricting the rights of a free press.

    Had the judge thought it necessary – I believe he could have closed the entire case from the public and media, as well as ordered all parties not to talk to the media. The judge rules his courtroom. Thats the only regulation thats necessary as far as I'm concerned.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Personally I think that Media has NO place in a court room, because people get emotional and lose their sense of judgement, especially in high profile cases with alot of media coverage, and that is not good.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. AMLSurvivor

    What would Nancy Grace be doing tonight in Florida if Casey had been found guilty. Sitting up on her high horse telling everyone how smart she is and knew she was guilty. Why is she trying to tell people that the defense has no right to celebrate a hard won victory. She needs to move on and quit stirring up the people of Orange County, so they can move on. I'm sure these people are tired of you.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tracy

    Nancy grace had about 1,000 shows the last 3 yrs and about 850 were about Casey Anthony. I thought Nancy was going to ahve a heart atttack when Michael Jackson was acquitted , she probably thought this was a slam dunk. but 12 people all came back quickly with not guilty , even an alternate said he would have voted not guilty . so its something we are missing. We dont get all outraged when innocent people are convicted. Lets acccept this . sorry nancy.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. md2205

    People are justifiably outraged over this verdict. It is important to note that when G-d made the world, He created it with seven laws for man to follow. They are: To believe in one unified G-d, not to blaspheme Him (not to blame Him for our troubles), not to murder, not to kidnap, not to do adultery, not to eat the limb of a living animal, and to set up courts of justice that work. We have fallen short on these objectives and we see the price we pay for it. Because we feel the outrage, we should intensify our efforts to reform what needs change and improve the system. This is what will make our world a better world.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • brian

      sorry buddy but u lost most of us as soon as u brought god into it .

      July 6, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Only thing to be outraged about is the procecutors team of Florida, that only was able to come up with a theory, that they could not provide a single pice of evidence for. The judge could have stopped this, but he did not. The judged allowed the trial to start, and he should not have done that, if he had reviewed the evidence. It just shows how media messes up, and how media does not have a conscience other than the dollars rolling in.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. Michael

    I do not think any kind of media has a place in a court room, because people get emotional about things and loose their sense of judgement, especially in high profile cases like this one. A good judge would have closed the doors.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
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