Actually, the jury didn't really say that. It said that the prosecution didn't prove that she had taken the child's life either deliberately or accidentally, that the evidence presented didn't meet the test of being beyond a reasonable doubt which is the cornerstone of our criminal justice system, especially in capital crimes.
It is rare for a jury to step up to that responsibility these days and those Floridians who traveled from St. Petersburg to Orlando to hear this tragic case should be lauded. They did their job quickly and efficiently and then quietly retired, forgoing efforts by the sensationalists in our business immediately afterwards to question them about what brought them to their conclusion on the core charges of the indictment against the 25-year-old mother.
The judge now says that Anthony could go free as soon as next week because of time served and good behavior.
It would have been easy for the 12 men and women to ignore the fact that the prosecution's case was built on evidence vulnerable to impeachment. The evidence was wholly circumstantial without forensic or eyewitness corroboration. In fact, the prosecution was left to make its case on suppositions easy enough for the gallery to believe but not in the jury box where a higher standard prevailed. The strategy failed despite the fact that the millions who sat glued to their favorite cable channels overwhelmingly bought her guilt.
This was not the O.J. Simpson case where solid evidence of guilt was impugned by those presenting it. It was not a jury that voted its sentiments, clearly ignoring the facts. It was a panel of citizens who understood that convicting on a death penalty charge needed the most convincing evidence.
In reality this was a small time case involving a mildly attractive single mother who longed to be a party girl and her precious daughter that grew into almost a national obsession from the mouths of a half-dozen talking heads desperate to build cable audience in the Simpson mode. Chief among them was Nancy Grace who on her nightly show made the case a cause celebre, coining the phrase "Tot Mom" to describe Anthony and unfortunately on at least one occasion apparently pronouncing her guilty.
The media circus that grew out of this is not new. What is new is that before Simpson and the ascent of cable, much of the same thing was occurring in newspapers. The Leopold and Loeb case in Chicago in the '20s and the Dr. Sam Sheppard case in the 1950s in Cleveland are prime examples.
The Sheppard incident produced a Supreme Court decision condemning the journalists who the court said created an atmosphere that deprived Sheppard of a fair trial by an impartial jury. The television series and movie, "The Fugitive," grew out of that case and its final TV episode drew the largest audience of any of its kind up until then, giving us a preview of what was to come.
That the court was able to protect the sanctity of the jury in the Anthony case from the taint of florid, sensational "journalism" is somewhat of a miracle even by selecting it from a pool 90 miles from Orlando and sequestering it for the duration of the trial.
The atmosphere outside the courtroom could only be described as ghoulish with mobs of thrill seekers fighting to get in and others visiting Anthony's neighborhood and even the site where Caylee Marie's body was found.
But if Casey Anthony didn't do it, who did? The circumstances of her tragic death may never be sorted out. Not even when, where and how she was killed. There isn't any other suspect, not even the father who the defense maintained tried to cover up the child's death as an accident.
Remember, the jury didn't say she didn't do it, just that it wasn't proven. Like it or not, that's the law.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.