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."

Post by: ,
Filed under: Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • Florida • Justice
soundoff (399 Responses)
  1. SMH

    I can't believe this women got away with killing her 2year old daughter. Just shows how screwed up this legal system is. Where the Hell is "Dexter Morgan" when you need him!

    July 6, 2011 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. absolute injustice

    Child killer, I hope someone puts her in a bag with some duct tape...

    July 6, 2011 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Monica

      Tot mom gets away with murder. John Baez put on a stellar defense. He was able to raise reasonable doubt. Job well done. Unfortunately, the manner or time, or the who murdered Caylee was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution and it was their burden of proof to do so. There was no justice for baby Caylee. But Casey Anthony will meet her demise. Karma!!!! Indeed, the devil is dancing tonight.

      July 6, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
    • michaelfury

      Your "2-minute hate" is managed and directed by the corporate media.


      July 6, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • mccloskey

      Any ignorant people that say that she should have duct tape on her should be arrested themselves and be arrested as an internet terrorist. You let the 3 years of talking heads control you. Thank God the jury system didn't in this case. You need a life and some mental help yourself.

      July 6, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • brenda

      I don't think people would be so enraged about the verdict if NANCY GRACE had kept your personal feelings off the TV.
      I have listened to her show and she is nothing but a RUDE person. Each time she had someone on and they tried to give their opinion she was nasty to them and cut them off if she did not agree. I thought HLN was about dicussing the case not about Nancy's feelings. I agree with Mr. Mason, this case was tried on HLN with Nancy Grace giving the verdict.
      If people listened to her and I am sure they did, her comments the last 3 years would enrage anyone. I am totally ashamed of CNN to allow Mrs. Grace to conduct this type of news, she should be fired today. Shame on you CNN
      it got you high ratings but at what cost????

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

      HLN commentary on this case by My Cousin and the Bleached Blonde do not qualify as reporting. They should be aired with advisories that they are really commentary, opinion and or fiction. The case was over charged. Provable but not filed charges such as hiding a death, abuse of a corpse, etc were what has everyone angry,,, but they were not given as options to the jury, HLN needs to get their anchors back to reporting the news instead of stirring the pot

      July 6, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Zane

      I am hoping to God Almighty that Mr. Mason was directing that finger at that ludicrous, screaming, Ritalin- and Thorazine-deprived idiot, Nancy Grace. From her earliest days as a prosecutor before being RUN OUT of the law business, comments such as this direct quote from the Georgia Supreme Court, about Nancy Grace, were her hallmark on countless cases:

      "the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable."

      THAT is Nancy Grace, as expressed by the Supreme Court of Georgia, one of many like it. She's so utterly ridiculous that I'm flabbergasted on trying to come up with a reason she would ever be allowed on any television program even REMOTELY related to "justice," when she herself votes to convict about four seconds after a person is arrested. LOL!

      She's a dunce. Badly in need of medication. Badly.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Apple

      The only people who need to soul search is the jury of idiots and the judge who kept throwing out evidence; just goes to show that stupidity is alive and well in this country. The jury has to be sick in the head or just ghouls who wanted attention and to sell books, and what better way to draw attention than to let a guilty woman go free.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. katie

    This conversation is disheartening if only because it so clearly highlights the need for better civics lessons across the United States. There are so many details and intricacies of our justice system that the commentators here are ill-informed about despite even Nancy Grace's occassional attempts at edification. The conversation in negativety here is frightening and unnecessary. To everyone blasting poor Michael, who has it mostly correct: our system of justice is founded on the principle that it is better to set a guilty person free rather than send a single innocent person to jail. We know we are failing on this principle so let us not revert to a lynch mob society. Peace is possible.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kyle

    I am heartbroken for Nancy Grace... I suppose she will now be forced to write the book about this case that doesn't have the ending she wanted. At least her ratings were up by 60 to 70 percent while sensationalizing this case on HLN. She says the "tot mom" should not be able to profit off her daughter's death yet she has done nothing but that since day one. People need to grow up and realize that the media are the reason for injustice in big time cases. Remember OJ? Remember Michael Jackson?

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

      Kyle I agree with you 100%, Nancy Grace and others have made so much money over the years off others. Proves to me the govt. needs to look into this. This girl just like alot of others have been put thru the wringer, and there absolutely the reason most folks only know she is suppose to be a liar is mainly because the media put it out there every hour on the hour. There were alot of folks that never watched this trial , that joined in because media stirred and stirred. Same thing happened in alot of other trials. There have been people found guilty just for this reason. Cameras need to come out of murder trials, and talk shows should not be able to talk about a trials during and before the trials.... After the child was found, it should have been completely out of the news till the trial was over.

      July 6, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris Astle

      I agree, Kyle. Nancy Grace is a jerk. She's not a journalist. I read elsewhere on this page, she wasnt even a good prosecutor. Her use of "tot mom" is pejorative, and CNN should not have allowed that. I hope, like Glenn Beck, her ratings take a big tumble and she is forced to find work elsewhere.

      July 6, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      LOL, Yes, so heartbrokern for that bleached blonde, botoxed witch. I feel sorry for Nancy Grace's children. How on earth are they going to grow up to be even close to normal. Take Nancy Disgraceful off o the air, please!

      July 6, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. AnnonUSA

    As a former prosecutor Nancy Grace should know better, and should not have questions about reasonable doubt, a cornerstone of American justice. I wonder how many rush to judgment cases she railroaded in her career.

    Who needs judges when we have Nancy to pass judgment?

    July 6, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Apple

      Was Nancy Grace on trial? Was the media? Or was it a lying crazy woman who murdered her own child so she could party? People are gass bagging about "the media" while a killer has been set free. It is absolutely disgusting.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. victory

    its about time, the system worked. party on casey.lol

    July 6, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. carm

    Finally the US justice system worked!!!!! Nance Grace reminds me of "Freisler", prominent and notorious Nazi judge.
    No longer Nance Grace justice: "Guilty until proven innocent"

    July 6, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. larry loebig

    I agree with tobin, the news media is out of control. The question is what will CNN do about it.
    Freedom of the press is a great power and it is being used without responsibility. The ratings do not justify bad journalistic behavior. When accused of a crime we are innocent until proven guilty by a jury of our peers. Unfortunately we are now forced to defend ourselves from the news media...and they have created a court of media opinion that is not protecting the rights of the accused.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. jrhgbb

    A person after being tried and proved innocent by her peers, should be able to try to move on and live their life. The defense did the best they could with all the media. She was tried and her family was tried by the media. over and over for three years. How can the police do their job with all the media all over them.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. UC_Wormy

    If I ever get into big trouble with Law, I hope Nance Grace go on TV, tell everybody I’m guilty, I’ll go free too

    July 6, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. John

    Well, Jeffery, you might wander downstairs to the HLN studios and speak with Ms. Grace. I'm sure she will value your opinion. Let me know how that works out for you....

    July 6, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. UC_Wormy

    Nance Grace, made millions for herself on this accidentally baby death and immature mother, still trying to make more, can’t let it go $$$$, but now need Tot Mom to do a book/move/tv deal, to prevent income loss for Nance Grace maybe producing book already…

    July 6, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. livia

    This is the kind of girl every mother prays her son will bring home! Yeah right.......I hope karma really does exist

    July 6, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dea Boston MA

    I have one question that lingers on and on.....Why did the defense bring in a grief expert to explain why someone who suffers the death of a child acts out the way they do ie: partying. I thought Casey didn't know her daughter was dead during the 31 days she did not report her missing??

    July 6, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      Pay attention. According to the defense both she and her father knew she was dead and covered it up. Caylee drowned in the family pool in June, according to the theory of the defense.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mar Florida

    What is needed are jurors that have half a brain in their heads not idiots like the ones in the Anthony trial.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • n mre

      And, then...these jurors fled the building without giving interviews to understand the reasoning behind the verdict...

      Time will only tell how her "Family" will deal with their "Daughter"... may we give strength to them to be the ones to seek true justice for Caylee...

      July 6, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14