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. TvNYC

    This is what I think happen. There is somebody out there that killed this girl and i do not think it was her mother. She was barely home so it must be someone that had access of the house and things in the house (access to computer, steal blanket, type chloroform, etc.) This was planned by someone. Perhaps a neighbor! The whole thing could have been done in one day as far as the murder and hide out the body. When Casey finally came home, that day late at night and her family asked if she seen Caylee, and than went to the pool and seen the pool that the killer may have setup for Casey to look guilty or whatever traps the real killer had. The car was returned. The grandparents are sad because they were sleeping while the killer came in and abducted Caylee stole the car and returned it the same day. Must have known their schedule. Hope the killer isn't reading this. The negligence from the Caylee's grandparents and her mom made them think they will go to jail and panicked but I am beginning to think that Casey was on the partying spree ( vacation ) & the killer knew this. Grandparents negligence had the baby kidnapped with the family car. Car smelled like a dead body so when Casey came back home and realized that she would be the first prime suspect. Paranoia kicked in and left the house. With the decomposed car and got angry and left her life behind (abandoning her car) Casey is not guilty. There is a real smart killer out there.

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

      The police screwed up, their only focus was Casey Anthony. Such amateurs! However no one knows what really happened. From following the case intensively it seems to me, that the child accidently drowned and that "maybe" both Casey Anthony and "maybe" also her family tried to cover it up somehow. I do not think there is a killer out there, I hope NOT.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Trisha

    I am Canadian and truly was sickened by the Casey Anthony not guilty verdict. I hope her guilt of killing her own fresh and blood
    never leaves her mind. RIP Caylee you are better off

    July 6, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Stop that. You cannot convict people on speculations and emotions. NO evidence of a murder was provided in this case.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      LOL. No evidence of a murder? So Caylee commited suicide by putting herself in a bag in a swamp?

      Were you on the jury?

      July 6, 2011 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Yes NO evidence of a murder that could stand trial. NOTHING. But yes a dead body, but NO sign what so ever of a murderer. Live with the facts. Do not let emotions and speculations rule in court room.

      July 6, 2011 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Matlock

      I think that Michael here is a prime example of what is wrong with the US justice system. "I didn't look that way so I didn't see anything"

      July 6, 2011 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
    • jane

      michael you are an idiot too. they had plenty of evidence. stop talking out your rear end.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      NO evidence of a 1st degree murder, NOTHING. Just live with the facts folks, and do NOT execute people in the electric chair based on emotions and speculations. Instead of calling me an "idiot", provide some evidence.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Trisha

    I was also truly disgusted with the defense team celebrating with a child killer

    July 6, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Stop that too. Do you not think the procecutors would have celebrated if they had won ? Sure they would. Of course they would. However you are so wrong. Defence attorney said in his speach that there is NO winner in this case, cuz the little lovely girl is dead.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • jane

      i am totally disgusted too. idiots for the jury, paid liars or truth twisters - whichever you prefer to use– for defense experts lawyers like cheyney who had very nasty unprofessional comments , but then again he defended a BABY KILLER . what a sorry excuse for justice. and the thought she will get rich by killing her own kid is even worse. i hope she ROTS just like she left poor caylee to do. it so obvious she did it, i just can't believe that stupid stupid jury. i hope they never sleep again knowing they left a baby killer walk. i would have voted guilty as soon as i walked in and i surely would have voted for the death penalty. too bad i wasn't on the jury.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      No evidence was provided in this trial, NOTHING. Just live with the facts.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Calling people "idiots" just because they do not share your opinion is a very low level of contribution. You should be banned from writing comments here.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tracie

    Maybe Casey can drive to Vegas now and bust OJ out of prison so they can find the "real" killer....

    July 6, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Just live with the facts. Court decisions must be based on facts. Facts are procecutors did not provide a single evidence of a murder in this trial.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
    • jane

      lol good one.better yet lets leave them in a room together and see who would win the big vegas fight tot mom with her duct tape AKA HOUSEHOLD WEAPON and chloroform or OJ and his knife. the world would be such a nicer place without either one.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Just live with the facts. No evidence of murder, or a murderer, or even motivation for a murder, was provided in this trial, NOTHING. So of course the jury only had one choice: Not guilty.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. Eric, San Deigo, CA

    Media coverage is a double-edged sword. The media spent 3 years poisoning the potential jury pool. As a result, the only eligible juror's left are those who mostly ignore the media anyway and think with their heads instead of their emotions. So naturally they picked up on the evidence, or lack thereof, that the prosecution presented. The Anthony's testimony was conflicted and unbelievable. The forensic evidence was in conflict between experts. The guy who found the body had changed his story over time. One thing that was proved was that the family is dysfunctional, while the prosecutions argument was that she's guilty because she's different. Plenty of reasonable doubt to anyone thinking with their head instead of their heart. In fact, I think the elected people in the prosecutors office let the media influence them when making the charge list, rather than going for lesser, but still serious, charges that were a lot easier to win.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Actually it all ended good because the jury did not listen to the media, but based their decision on the proof provided, and NO proof was provided of first degree murder, not even proof of motivation for a first degree murder. The jury can be proud of their work, good job done. Where as many many others should be so ashamed of convicting someone before this someone had his day in court. Media srewed up again, but they do that on purpose in order to make money.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Lil

      Amen! They should have pursued lesser charges that could be more easily proven. That's a given.

      Nancy Grace makes me ill. Yet, I've found myself tolerating her at moments in order to keep up. Ugh. She preaches against hypocrisy, yet I have no doubt she would have Casey Anthony on her show STAT, if it were possible.

      There will be no life or future for this broad. She will have no peace. She won't have any freedom, even after she walks out of jail. There is a Higher Justice, and she will pay in good time regardless of this verdict.

      July 6, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. DH

    The media coverage doesn't lead to jurors who are eager to convict, but actually has the opposite effect: with cameras in the courtroom, these jurors face undue pressure because they know everyone's watching. It makes them hold the State to a much HIGHER standard, more than just "reasonable doubt". They need to be "more sure" than any other jury would, because they know they will have to answer to society after the trial is over. They are not anonymous anymore. If they found her guilty and walked out of the courtroom where everyone outside thought she was innocent, they'd feel worse. So, they need "absolute proof" instead of "beyond a reasonable doubt".

    That's not an impartial jury; it's one which is biased towards the defense from the minute they see those cameras in the courtroom. Get the cameras out and let the jury decide without fear of convicting.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |

    CNN -- Mr. Mason said everything that needed to be said.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I had a little problem with Mr. Masons accent, which was hard to understand at times. But I think Mr. Mason is a good defence attorney, and as I understand he also worked pro bono, which is very admireable.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. rintin53

    Blame the media(Nancy Grace) for the lynch mob that has camped outside the Anthony's home since the day she was accused. I hope she (Casey) can find a safe place to hide from the derelicts out there that don't accept this verdict, and try to mete out their own "justice" NG needs to be taken off the air, ratings do not justify inciting murder.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. Michael

    I think huge media coverage of this sad story of a 2 years old girls tragic death is a perfect example of how media just loves to engage in throwing mud, because it sells. Whatever sells the media is ready to engage in. ABC paid almost 300,000 dollars for 3 home videos of Casey Anthony and her little daughter. I got many home videos, I would be a billionaire, but I am not. I wouldnt sell my home videos anyway. Bottom line: Media is pure business, just like shares, no morality, no right or wrong, whatever sells media is going to sell. Some things never change. And media is not going to change either. Our world is money driven, that is the only morality: Make money.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. katj

    Oh my god, now everything is Nancy Grace's fault!! While I do find her a bit abrasive,I hardly think she 'caused' the prosecution to make this into a capital case! Instead of flapping your gums move your damn fingers and change the channel or better yet turn the tv off! No one is making you sit there and watch her. Better yet direct your ire towards that monster who threw her baby away.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ewald B

    Everyone was mentioning how the Jury has been gone for my gosh over six weeks from home and how they were craving to get home instead of doing their job they were selected to do. Pity them for being away for six weeks. They need to go to Iraq or Afghanistan for a year and put their life on the line everyday and take notes. Come back for six months and be separated again for a year without your family, relatives or friends. Then they will know what craving and missing the comforts of home, family, relatives and friends is all about. They were dozing off and squirming in their chairs. Wow a whole six weeks. Then less than eleven hours to come to a verdict because one jury would miss a pleasure cruise tomorrow and they have been gone six weeks. Pity them. None of them wanted to be there in the first place. Caylee "Rest in Peace."

    July 6, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jonathan Witerski

    The news media absolutely loves scandal – real or imaginary. The imaginary part is the part of most concern. Smearing people's reputations before they are even found guilty of anything is abominable and goes to show how desperate many of these "news" networks are to get people to read or watch some of their garbage. Here's the news, news people: innocent until PROVEN guilty. It's time to change the defamation of character laws.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kat

    Michael is right. Legal cases are not decided on emotions. They are decided on evidence. And the prosecutors did not provide that evidence. Had they tried for a lessor charge, they might have won. They got greedy. And the media has just turned this into a 3 ring circus. How about the countless other children who are missing - how about all the trials that go on every day without media oversight?

    And, frankly, I'm so tired of hearing the term "tot mom" from Nancy Grace that I could vomit. How disrespectful - whether she is guilty or not that is disrespectful and Nancy Grace should be ashamed.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • SASS

      Not sure Nancy Grace has any shame

      July 6, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • nmlawyer

      Um, manslaughter IS a lesser charge.

      July 8, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |

    JURY IN A HURRY syndrome is what I say. Get in, get it done, then don't say bye-bye.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. jennifer Maffett

    I am sorry but I do not blame the grandparents or Lee for that matter. I think this has got to be one of the worst, if not worst thing they are going through! I think it would go a long way in not only clearing their name but setting the record straight if they were to pursue a wrongful death case on behalf of Caylee against Casey thus ensuring Casey does not benefit from her daughters death in any way. I also think should Hollywood start talking about doing a made for tv movie or book deals people across the board should unite and BOYCOTT any and all persons/products/anything affiliated with making little Caylees untimely death a "cash cow" for ANYONE much less Casey Marie Anthony, her attorneys, and/or said jurors! Should be interesting to see just how much her family wants to not only to clear their name, find out what really happened to Caylee "as they have released via their attorney they may never know what happened to their granddaughter" but also to honor their late grandchilds memory! Time will tell!

    July 6, 2011 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
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