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Casey Anthony Trial was the highly publicized murder trial of the mother of Caylee Marie Anthony, a two-year-old child whose remains were discovered in December of 2008. Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first-degree murder in July of 2011. The event has been called “the social media trial of the century” by Time Magazine due to the record amount of online activity about the case.
Caylee Marie Anthony was born on August 9, 2005. She was last seen by her grandfather, George Anthony, on June 16, 2008. He said that he saw Caylee with her mother, Casey. Casey Anthony reported her missing on July 15, 2008, saying that she hadn’t seen her daughter for 31 days. She initially claimed that she left Caylee with her nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, and that when she went back to the apartment, Fernandez-Gonzalez was nowhere to be found, and the phone was out of service.
Caylee Anthony (left) and Caylee with her mother Casey Anthony (right)
She later changed her story, claiming that Fernandez-Gonzalez and her sister kidnapped Caylee, and told her to tell authorities a false story, in exchange for Caylee’s safety. According to Wikipedia, her remains were not found till 6 months after her disappearance. Casey Anthony was arrested on suspicion of murder on October 14, 2008.
On July 5th, 2011, Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and manslaughter. She was found guilty on four counts of providing false information to police officers. On July 7th, 2011, Anthony was sentenced to 4 years in jail, one year for each of her 4 counts of providing false information to police officers. Anthony has already served 3 years in jail while awaiting trial and is also credited with good behavior. Her prison sentence ended on July 17th, 2011.
Casey Anthony’s Defense team has come under criticism for celebrating the “not guilty” verdict at Terrace 390, a restaurant directly across the street from the Orange County Courthouse. The video shows members from Anthony’s legal team celebrating, laughing, and dancing in the restaurant, while surrounded by televisions covering Anthony’s trial.
Social Media Coverage
This high profile court case is the first to take place in the presence of the established series of online social networks. News feeds were created on multiple networks providing minute by minute updates of the trial and the ability for anyone with internet access to comment. A Time Magazine report remarked on the Internet’s role in providing information about the case:
Today, the latest and most reliable news of the trial comes from a Twitter account, NinthCircuitFL. That’s the feed managed by the 9th Judicial Circuit Court, which has some 400 reporter-blogger followers. (As the first court in the U.S. to use DNA evidence, in a 1987 rape case, it’s accustomed to being on the cutting edge.) The various Facebook pages honoring Caylee have amassed tens of thousands of friends, and Twitter accounts like CaseyJunky and OSCaseyAnthony (managed by the Orlando Sentinel) are adding followers at a rate of hundreds per day.
Controversial Partying Pictures
Digging through the internet also surfaced personal pictures of Anthony at parties in the days following the death of Caylee Marie, leading her to be portrayed as a “party girl” during the course of the trial. After she was found not guilty, the Orlando Sentinel reported on the online activity surrounding the verdict:
On Tuesday afternoon, the coverage reached a zenith on Twitter when the keywords “caseyanthony” were used 34,000 times and “notguilty” appeared 20,000 times an hour after the announcement of the not-guilty verdict on the first-degree-murder charge.
Nancy Grace Coverage
HLN news anchor Nancy Grace had been publicly supporting a guilty verdict throughout the Casey Anthony case, and as a result garnered further ire from her critics. A previous on-air controversy involved the suicide of an interviewee following an appearance on Grace’s show regarding the disappearance of the their son.
OJ Simpson Trial Comparison
After the verdict was issued, many began to compare it to the 1994 murder trial of former football player OJ Simpson. Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife and a male friend. Like the Anthony trial, the Simpson trial was also very heavily followed by the media, and many were outraged over the verdict. Today, both parties are seen by many as “having gotten away with murder”.
Following the verdict, references to the character Dexter Morgan, from the Showtime TV Series Dexter, began trending on Twitter with the #dexter hashtag and image macros popped up on Reddit and Tumblr. The character Dexter Morgan is a serial murderer that kills people who escape justice through the conventional justice system.
On December 15th, 2011, the NY Daily News reported that Casey Anthony was requesting up to $750,000 to be interviewed about her trial and proclaim her innocence.
The production company is asking between $500,000 and $750,000 and is insisting it co-produce the talk show. But it would allow the winning bidder to pick its own interviewer, the web site reported.
On the date of the verdict many celebrities sounded their opinions through Twitter, the most controversial coming from actress/model Kim Kardashian:
WHAT!!!!???!!!! CASEY ANTHONY FOUND NOT GUILTY!!!! I am speechless!!!
Kim’s father, Robert Kardashian, was one of the attorneys on OJ Simpsons legal defense team during his 1995 murder trial. Many Twitter users retweeted and replied to Kim in order to imply irony in her statement leading to a rebuttal an hour later:
Reading the comments here &its nuts people think just bc I was close to the OJ trial I can’t have my own opinion on the Casey Anthony case?
On the same afternoon, a representative from the social media agency Likeable representing baked goods company Entenmann’s posted the following tweet after seeing the term #notguilty as a tending topic.
The tweet was deleted soon after when someone from the agency made the connection between the hashtag and why it was trending. A public statement offering an apology for the tweet was posted later that day.
On January 4th, 2011, the HollyandJonBriley YouTube channel uploaded a video of a woman that appeared to be Casey Anthony with blonde hair and glasses. In the video, she explained that she was making her first “video diary”, that she had adopted a dog and that the date was October 13th, 2011.
So this is my first video diary, it is October 13th, which is a Thursday, 2011, and I’m just trying to figure out my new computer and I don’t know, I guess I’m liking it so far. It’s obviously a different ballgame for me, because I’ve never used this before. So, I guess these will be as tedious as my audio recordings have been. To start off this one, just a few updates from the last few days, there really hasn’t been all that much going on, except now for this and I’m extremely excited that I’ll be able to Skype and obviously keep a video log, take some pictures… and then I have something to finally call mine. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to call something mine, and now that I have something even -- you know, it’s silly to say I have a computer. And a camera and a phone, granted, I wouldn’t have a phone without (inaudible) and know I’ve now actually paid for my own computer, the camera was a gift, these are things I don’t have to give back. It’s kind of nice to say I have some belongings that are mine that I’ll be able to keep with me when I leave next year. It’s kind of funny to think about, actually. It’s going to be a while before I leave, I’m going to be here for many months more, I’m going to be here for 6 months, even if I get off probation early.
I’ll still be here at least until February… the end of February. Seven months, March, my birthday, just either way, you know, whether it’s six months or it’s a year from now or a year from middle of August. I don’t know. It’s just been a blessing in so many ways. And now I have someone to talk to when I’m by myself so I’m not bothering the poor dog. Who I’ve adopted and I love and he’s as much my dog as any of the other pets I’ve ever had (inaudible) families I’ve ever had if not moreso… so… I don’t know… I don’t know whether to look directly at myself, or look up, or… oh man… just a little surreal how much things have changed since July and how many things haven’t changed… but the good thing is that things are starting to look up and things are starting to change. In a good way. Let’s just hope they stay… that things stay good and that they only get better. They’ll only get better. So this is the end of my first video log. I’ll probably do one later. Maybe I’ll bring the dog, who knows. But this is again the first of many and I’m looking forward to this. It’s a little scary because I hate being on camera, but I don’t know. I need to conquer that fear at some point. This is a good start. So here’s something. It’s the end of the first. Just the beginning.
The next day, multiple news sources posted the video including Mediaite, MSNBC Today, The Washington Post, The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post, and confirmed that it was Anthony in the video. Legal Analyst Dan Abrams speculated on Good Morning America that it is unlikely Anthony released the video since it appeared she was attempting to disguise her identity.
Suspicious Google Search Discovered
On November 20th, Orlando Florida’s Local 6 news station revealed that detectives had overlooked a Google search made on Casey Anthony’s computer for “foolproof suffocation [sic].” The article reported that the search was made on a browser used primarily by Anthony and activity on the social networking site Myspace. In the following days, the story was reported by several news site, including Inquisitir, Jezebel, Mashable, The Guardian, New York Post and Scallywag and Vagabond. On November 26th, the satirical news site The Onion published an article titled “Detectives Overlooked Casey Anthony’s ‘I Killed My Daughter’ AMA on Reddit,” joking that Anthony had detailed how she murdered her daughter in an “ask me anything” post on the social news site Reddit.
Time Magazine – How the Casey Anthony Murder Case Became the Social-Media Trial of the Century / Posted on 6/16/2011
Orlando Sentinel – Casey Anthony trial: Social media revolutionized coverage
Los Angeles Times – Nancy Grace says ‘the devil is dancing’ at Casey Anthony verdict
New York Post – Casey Anthony’s defense team celebrates verdict at restaurant / 7-6-2011
The Daily Mail – Newly blonde Casey Anthony records YouTube video diary
Scallywag and Vagabond – Casey Anthony search for foolproof suffocation would have been explained away