The Casey Anthony effect

NEED TO KNOW
  • Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter July 5, 2011. A year later, repercussions are still being felt.
The Casey Anthony effect

The impact of the Casey Anthony verdict is most visible in the raw, emotional reactions people had last July - and are still feeling today.

There's no shortage of YouTube videos featuring passionate reactions to Anthony's acquittal. Check out a few of those intense videos here:

WATCH: Mom finds the verdict "unbelievable"

WATCH: Woman struggles to control her emotions while the verdict is read

WATCH: A brother and sister react to verdict in disbelief

In Session correspondent Beth Karas said she understands the emotions people feel about the case even a year later.

"I think a lot of the anger following Anthony's acquittal stemmed from her neglect as a mother. It is an undisputed fact that she never reported her daughter missing (or dead) for more than a month. People wanted to see her held accountable for at least that poor judgment," Karas said.

But the Anthony trial did more than just inspire strong emotions.

A civics lesson

It also educated the millions of people who watched the trial about the American justice system. For many, the jurors' justification for the verdict exposed some of the difficulties prosecutors have to overcome. The case against Anthony was largely circumstantial, with limited physical evidence, like DNA.

Jennifer Ford was a juror in the trial. "I did not say she was innocent," Ford told ABC News.  "I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

Some people on In Session's Facebook page say they learned how important direct physical evidence can be in a jury's deliberations.

Melodee Hudkins writes on Facebook, "I think anyone who has followed the CA trial has become more informed as to the meaning of reasonable doubt, direct evidence, and indirect evidence. Unfortunately, it has taken the death of an innocent child to shine a light on our judicial system as it exists today. For better or worse, we, and possibly the rest of the world, are more informed due to the extensive coverage of this tragic case."

Tori Jade Harris writes on Facebook, "I think that the Casey Anthony trial was a live and learn situation for America and the justice system. Not many people believed in her innocence but unfortunately there was not enough physical or circumstantial evidence to rightfully convict her. Hopefully for other high profile cases such as this, the prosecution will make sure that all of their ducks are in a row before they take the case to trial."

Rhodene Hubbard writes on Facebook, "It made me realize just how much TV (CSI effect) has on all of us. Common sense doesn't always make it to jury deliberation."

The CSI effect

The "CSI effect" is a theory that crime shows create unrealistic standards in viewers' minds when it comes to looking at forensic evidence.  For example, investigators on some crime shows will solve cases using state-of-the-art technology or technology that doesn't even exist. When fans of these crime shows serve on juries, some people theorize that those jurors believe real investigative work is unreliable, and therefore, crime show fans will be less willing to convict a defendant unless there's strong scientific evidence.

HLN's and In Session's Ryan Smith says the CSI effect is making things more difficult for prosecutors as they try to prove their cases.

"I think the CSI effect was bigger in this case, in terms of the public seeing it, than any other case in history. Because, this, to me, showed that a jury, in order to convict somebody, especially for something like murder, especially with something that involves the death penalty possibly… this showed that you have to have every I dotted and every T crossed and if you don't, then it's not that you won't get a conviction, but it makes it a lot harder," said Smith.

Sequestering juries

In Session's Jean Casarez agrees that the CSI effect may have played a role in the case, but she says there may have been other factors influencing jurors' behavior during the trial.

"The jury in the Casey Anthony case was sequestered for so many weeks… it is the opinion of some that the jurors were just tired when it got to the point of deliberations.  They may have been motivated to get home, not motivated to look at every piece of detailed evidence. If they had meticulously gone through everything in this circumstantial case there could have been a conviction," Casarez said.

Casarez said she believes that judges in other high-profile cases took notes on how sequestration impacted the Anthony jury.

"Two high-profile cases that came after Anthony, the George Huguely case in Virginia and the Jerry Sandusky case in Pennsylvania, both had motions to sequester the jury. In the Huguely case, the judge's order denying sequestration referred to what it can do to someone to be away from their family," she said.

The George Zimmerman case

The Anthony trial has also been brought up in a hearing for another high-profile Florida case -- the death of Trayvon Martin.  George Zimmerman is facing a second-degree murder charge for shooting Martin who was returning home from a convenience store.  Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, saying he shot the teen in self-defense.

There are a couple of connections between the Zimmerman case and the Anthony trial.  Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara was a TV analyst for HLN affiliate WKMG during the Anthony trial. Attorney Hal Uhrig, who represented Zimmerman briefly, was an analyst for HLN affiliate WOFL during the Anthony trial.  In addition, CNN analyst and attorney Mark NeJame, who was an analyst for HLN affiliate WKMG during the Anthony trial, actually declined to represent Zimmerman. The first judge assigned to the case, Jessica Recksiedler, recused herself from the Zimmerman case, because her husband is a partner with NeJame's law firm.

Judge Kenneth Lester, who is currently presiding over the case, has expressed concerns about potential jurors in the case. He's said Florida's laws about releasing information and the intense media attention focused on the Zimmerman case could make it harder to seat an impartial jury for the trial.

But an attorney for the Orlando Sentinel, Rachel Fugate, argues that the Anthony trial is an example of how the media didn't influence a jury.

"Discovery in Florida has traditionally been open... and Florida hasn't encountered problems seating juries and giving defendants fair trials," Fugate said.

Because of the media attention, Lester has given the prosecution and the defense team leeway on what information should be kept from the public.  Attorneys from both sides are allowed to review the discovery evidence and withhold information as they see fit before it's released.

While Zimmerman's legal journey is just beginning, Anthony still has a lot of legal troubles ahead. 

Anthony is facing two civil lawsuits for statements she made during the search for Caylee Anthony. She is also appealing her four convictions of lying to law enforcement.

One final lesson

In Session's Vinnie Politan said the Anthony trial will impact the judicial system for years to come, and he hopes the lessons learned can improve it. 

"When it's time for you to serve as a juror, remember you are allowed to use your common sense and listen closely to the judge's instructions about what needs to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It's the elements of the crime.  It's not every single fact alleged by the prosecution," he said.

Join the conversation...

HLNtv.com welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.
Nancy: Tot mom's story 'didn't make sense' from start
Casey: One Year Later | See all 24 items Nancy: Tot mom's story 'didn't make sense' from start

Advertisement