Anthony to Go Free in 10 Days

Deborah Denno in The Wall Street Journal, July 08, 2011

Media Source

By ASHBY JONES And PATRICK G. LEE

Casey Anthony, who spent nearly three years in jail before being acquitted Tuesday of killing her 2-year-old daughter, will be incarcerated just 10 more days for her conviction on charges of lying to investigators, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.

The decision by Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Belvin Perry capped a six-week trial that riveted the nation and sparked heated debate over the criminal-justice system.

Ms. Anthony, 25 years old, was charged with murder and other crimes after her daughter, Caylee, disappeared in June 2008. The girl's disappearance was reported to authorities by her grandparents 31 days after she went missing, and Caylee's remains were found several months later in a wooded area in Orlando, Fla. Ms. Anthony claimed Caylee had drowned accidentally in the family's pool and been found by another family member, who then covered up her death.

Ms. Anthony was cleared of the most serious charges but convicted on four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators looking into Caylee's disappearance. Judge Perry sentenced her to four consecutive one-year maximum sentences, but granted credit for time served and for good behavior while incarcerated.

Legal experts said the penalty —the stiffest allowed under the law—was unusual.

"You hardly ever see jail time for misdemeanor charges," said Michael Seigel, a criminal-law expert at the University of Florida. The judge "flexed all the muscle he had," he said.

Cheney Mason, one of Ms. Anthony's defense attorneys, said, "I was disappointed with the sentencing decision because Ms. Anthony should have been released today."

Despite being found not guilty of murder, Casey Anthony must spend another nine days in jail because she was found guilty of lying to law enforcement officials. Video: Fox News/Image:Associated Press.

A spokeswoman for the Orange-Osceola County State Attorney's office said prosecutors were "very satisfied with Judge Perry."

There was widespread surprise at Ms. Anthony's acquittal, with some legal experts expecting that Ms. Anthony's failure to immediately report Caylee's disappearance—as well as her seemingly carefree behavior while the girl was missing—would have reflected poorly with jurors. But according to the accounts of one juror, the panel didn't feel there was enough evidence connecting Ms. Anthony to Caylee's death, and there were too many unanswered questions about how she died.

"Our system worked," Mr. Seigel said. "There was reasonable doubt, and a jury's job when there's reasonable doubt is to acquit."

Ms. Anthony's legal woes aren't over. The state filed a motion Wednesday seeking to have her reimburse Orange County law enforcement for the cost of the investigation, which Sheriff's Office Capt. Angelo Nieves said was prolonged by Ms. Anthony's lies. His office is still calculating a final tab.

Some legal experts said the move—expressly permitted under Florida law—could be seen as trying to blunt any attempt by Ms. Anthony to cash in on her notoriety, or at least tie up her assets. "The state is saying, 'Hey, we're taking dibs on whatever you're going to make,' " said Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York.

Mr. Mason, Ms. Anthony's lawyer, acknowledged that the state had the right to pursue costs, but said he is angry about it. "The amount of money the state wasted prosecuting this case is staggering, and now they have the gall to go after her for four lies in one phone call?" he said. "It's just offensive."

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Florida and Oklahoma have pledged to propose a "Caylee's Law" in their legislatures. Rep. Paul Wesselhoft and Sen. Greg Treat, both of Oklahoma, are working separately to draft a law that would make it a felony for parents not to report child's death or disappearance in a timely manner, and Florida Rep. Bill Hager plans to introduce a similar proposal within the month.