Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery Premieres In The UK
In the summer of 2008, Cindy Anthony called 911. Her daughter Casey had just informed her that their two-year-old granddaughter Caylee was missing and had been for a month-taken by a mysterious nanny they had never met. In December the little girl’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area discarded in bags. Tests showed that the trunk of the car Casey had been driving contained DNA belonging to her child, and tested positive for decomposition. Although the majority of the country were sure that Casey had killed her daughter and discarded of her body in the woods, a jury found her not guilty in 2011. Now a three-part docuseries, which premieres on Quest Red on Saturday 29 April about the explosive murder trial that gripped the nation. The programme will feature in-depth interviews with those at the heart of the case, including Cindy and George Anthony, grandparents to the murder victim and parents to the former number one suspect, along with Belvin Perry, Jr., the judge who presided over Casey’s trial; Russ Huekler, an alternate juror who, among the other jurors, faced public scrutiny for the jury’s decision to acquit Casey; and Kevin Beary, the former Orange County Sheriff who first investigated the case. Real Crime interviewed some of the shows central figures to look at why now is the time to reflect on the case, and look at what is one of America’s biggest murder mysteries since the OJ Simpson case.
Beth Karas is a former prosecutor and crime reporter in the US
How would you describe Casey’s six-week trial?
The lead up to her trial was a highly anticipated event, because she was incarcerated for three years before going to trial- that’s a little unusual homicides take on average a year to go to trial, and because it was so heavily covered by the media people just couldn’t wait for it. The judge selected a jury from out of county, which meant that as they were living in a hotel in Orlando, so it was really intense. We worked Monday through Saturday in order to not disadvantage the jurors too much who were uprooted from their homes, so it was just non stop Casey Anthony. It was the beginning of the case that set the tone when Jose Beaz stood up in his opening statement said there was no murder, this child had died in a drowning accident that was covered up- that was a shocker and had everybody talking. My reaction was that Casey was going to testify because the things Jose Baez said in his opening statement could not have come in at trial unless Casey testified, these were allegations of sex abuse by her father when she was a child, and no one could say those things, only Casey-it’s not admissible. He (Baez) ended up never calling her, she chose not to testify. The judge said you can’t argue to the jury in your summation that Casey was sexually abused as a child, because you never put any evidence of it forward. You dropped the bomb in your opening but you didn’t support it, so you can’t comment on it. But many people felt that the damage was done with his opening statement that it was an accident, and Casey was good at lying because she had been lying all her life to cover up her father’s sex abuse as their dirty little secret. It’s hard to believe that didn’t affect jurors and how they assessed the evidence going forward.
Why is the docuseries so important now?
There’s still an interest in her Investigation Discovery are looking back at cases that really gripped the nation at one time. People still have an interest in her life. Is she still the most hated woman in America I don’t know that she is but people do not wish her well.
Steph Watts is a television journalist from Canada and the only person allowed to interview George and Cindy Anthony
Why did you interview Casey’s parents separately?
I felt it was important because as I learned quickly from speaking with them that they had completely different views on hat happened. Cindy is buying into the defence theory that she drowned in the pool, that theory came from Dominic Casey on the defence team, there was no evidence that it ever happened other than a photograph of the young girl opening the door. George’s theory was that she (Casey) was drugging her child, and I felt he his story was more backed up with facts. He said she was sleeping 12-14 hours a day, anyone I know who has children thinks that’s odd and she had black circles under her eyes. Casey was obviously living the party lifestyle and living with guys who were dealing drugs, so George came to the conclusion that she had been giving her daughter an over the counter cough syrup to make her sleep or something more serious like Zanex, and the street term for annex is Zanny and she kept saying her daughter was “with Zanny the nanny”.
Did the pair ever discuss the suspicion that they both played a role in killing Caylee?
They denied any involvement particularly George because there was the theory that he had helped to cover up the crime, but he adamantly denies he had any involvement in it. He was concerned after the show aired as to how he came across, and I felt the reaction from social media was that everyone was sympathetic more so than Cindy and felt she was a liar and believed George more and I felt bad because I didn’t want Cindy to look bad I was just there to speak the truth.
Diane Dimond is an experienced crime reporter and television journalist who has covered a number of high profile cases in the US
In your opinion, which piece of forensic evidence was the strongest indicator that Casey was guilty?
I think the strongest evidence from the prosecutions point of view was her car, which had the scientifically proven smell of human decomposition in the trunk, which also contained the scientifically proven smell of very high levels of chloroform. These are not situations that occur naturally in the trunk of someone’s car and for that reason that car was such an important piece of evidence. It ran out of gas and was abandoned at a corner store, got towed away and Casey’s parents got a notice that their car was in an impound lot. When they retrieved it, it had an odour about it that was so disturbing that George Anthony who had experience as a police officer, had an enormous amount of trepidation to even open the trunk. What was he going to find? He knew what that smell was and that it was the smell of a dead body, and when he opened the trunk he testified he was so relieved that he didn’t find Caylee in there, but it was the smell from that across that spoke volumes. I think that and the body of Caylee worked both ways. It was proof for the prosecution that the child was dead but it also had been out in the elements for so long that there was not enough evidence on it to prove how she died and that worked against the prosecution.
What was your reaction to the verdict?
I always try to remain objective and not to predict the outcome but I was really shocked. I thought the prosecution had overcharged her, but I still thought they had done such a good job at categorising everything that she had done during the 30 days that her child was missing, and that they had painted such an accurate picture of her. I was stunned as was I’m sure most of the country. For so long there had been this drum beat from protesters outside the court room, the local media, the prosecution all along saying ‘she’s guilty there’s no other explanation for why this child is dead’ and then she walks free? It was unfathomable.
CASEY ANTHONY: AN AMERICAN MURDER MYSTERY premieres exclusively in the UK on Quest Red, 11pm, Saturday 29th April (Freeview 38).