When it was announced that a Florida jury had reached a verdict in the infamous Casey Anthony trial in Orlando, it seemed that a nation held its collective breath. Though I was supposed to be working on several articles yesterday, I couldn't help but remain glued to the TV, counting the minutes until the verdict was published.
I moved to Orange County in fall 2007, and lived near Casey's family home in East Orlando. I remember watching the first news report when Caylee was reported missing back in the summer of 2008.
I often saw George Anthony at Wal-Mart on Colonial. He had a truck painted with Caylee's image and a 1-800 number soliciting any help he could get in finding his granddaughter. The Amscot where Casey abandoned her Pontiac was less than a half-mile from my condo. And I remember calling my now fiancee that day in December when Caylee's remains were unearthed.
Yesterday afternoon, the Twitterverse went crazy with people speculating on what the result would be. I watched the television reports showing masses of Orlando residents gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse. When Casey entered the courtroom, all eyes were on her, and her every move scrutinized. The circumstantial evidence was damning, but did the prosecution team prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey Marie Anthony murdered her baby?
The answer was no. At 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5 -- just a day after we celebrated the 235th birthday of our nation -- Casey was found not guilty of all of the major charges against her, including first degree murder in Caylee's death.
Sure, I had watched the legal commentary of attorneys saying that all the evidence was circumstantial. No murder weapon was found, and no one truly knows the cause of Caylee's death. Why did it shock me so when the verdict was read?
When terrible things happen, I think it's human nature to want justice. People want someone to blame, someone to pay. People want closure. But what you "know" and what you can prove are two very different things, my attorney friends tell me.
And while Casey Anthony is an unlikable liar, that doesn't automatically make her a murderer. I think she was convicted in the court of public opinion many months ago, but only the results of the court of law really count.
I don't envy the job of the jurors who served in this trial, and they certainly had more access to information about this trial than I had.
I have faith that every one will be judged by God at our appointed time. And, as angry as I am about what happened to Caylee, I am trying very hard not to judge Casey because I believe only God can do that. Do I think Casey Anthony killed her child? I don't know, but I believe she had something to do with it, and knows more than she's sharing.
Caylee Marie's death is a senseless tragedy that we can't fully comprehend, but sadly, it's no different than the disappearances and deaths of so many countless children who didn't make headlines. The circumstances of their cases may not be as sordid as the story surrounding Caylee, but that doesn't make them any less horrific.