Speed Read: ‘Presumed Guilty—Casey Anthony: The Inside Story’
From how police manipulated her image to the day Caylee disappeared, defense lawyer Jose Baez tells all.
“There are a lot of people who are displeased with the results and a lot who are displeased with the process,” defense lawyer Jose Baez told The Daily Beast of the trial of Casey Anthony, who in 2011 was found not guilty of murdering her daughter, Caylee. “I’m more displeased with the process, and it has nothing to do with Casey as much as it has to do with the next person that shouldn’t be presumed guilty.”
With these thoughts in mind, Baez relived the three years he dedicated to defending Casey in his new book, Presumed Guilty—Casey Anthony: The Inside Story, explaining why he stood by America’s most hated woman and how the jury came to deliver a not-guilty verdict.
“There was evidence of bad behavior all over the place, but this was a murder case, not a bad behavior case, or obstruction of justice, or even aggravated manslaughter,” Baez said of the verdict. “There wasn’t evidence of murder.”
In his book, Baez recounts all angles of the case, from the day Caylee disappeared to Casey’s incessant lies and the dysfunctional family dynamic she grew up in. He also explains why Casey’s alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her father and brother was mounted in her defense.
Pretty Little LiarOne of the prosecution’s main arguments was that Casey was a pathological liar and was therefore likely lying when she claimed innocence—and they had plenty of evidence to support the former claim. When Caylee was first reported missing, Casey told detectives that a month earlier she had dropped her daughter off at the nanny’s house before going to her job at Universal Studios. When she went to pick her up at the end of the day, Casey said, no one answered the door. But her story, which she stuck to adamantly, was a series of elaborate lies. As Baez writes, Casey never had a nanny and had been fired from Universal Studios two years before Caylee died. She went so far as to lead one detective to her “office” at Universal before admitting that she didn’t work there. At this point, the detective received a call from Cindy Anthony saying the ladder to their swimming pool had been up the day Caylee disappeared, suggesting that the little girl might have drowned. But the detective never questioned Casey Anthony about her mother’s claim, says Baez. “It was clear to me that [the detective] didn’t ask Casey about the ladder and the pool because he had already made up his mind that she was a prime suspect in a possible murder case,” Baez writes. She was arrested hours later, and her perp walk was broadcast in local media. At this point, Baez argues, she was already unjustly presumed guilty.
‘The Casey Anthony Reality Show’The extent to which local police and media contributed to Anthony’s notoriety as the most hated woman in America is indicative of why the country was so shocked when she was found not guilty. From the very beginning, Baez argues, the police “had a well-orchestrated plan to convict Casey in the court of public opinion…as the police began to serve the media a steady diet of leaks and false information.” They told the media cadaver dogs had sniffed out the “smell of death” in the trunk of Casey’s car; that a strand of Caylee’s hair had been found in the trunk; that tests found evidence of chloroform in the trunk and had traced it back to Casey. But Baez insists “none of this ‘evidence’ turned out to be based on fact,” and yet law enforcement officials were adamant about sticking to their story. “Like in politics, this was about winning.” Not long after she was released from jail on bond, she was arrested again for writing fraudulent checks during 30 days when she lived away from home after Caylee’s death. Protesters outside her house shouted “baby killer” as she was escorted away in handcuffs. “This was a case where everyone involved wanted as much publicity as possible,” Baez writes, “and in this case I believed the media over the cops every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.”
‘Medical Care’ in JailCasey’s treatment during her time in jail wasn’t exactly humane, her lawyer writes. When Baez went to visit her with the news that authorities had discovered Caylee’s remains, prison guards wouldn’t allow him to see her and said she was receiving “medical care.” The head of the missing person’s unit decided to make Casey watch the breaking news that her daughter’s remains had been found with the hope that she would “maybe flip out and confess,” Baez writes. Corrections officers entered her cell, shackled her legs and hands in chains, took her to the medical unit, and videotaped her reaction to the media’s footage. “For ten minutes they sat her there watching the horrible news made more horrible by the sensationalist media until one of the nurses said, ‘Okay, I think she’s had enough…’ To this day it was one of the cruelest and most disgusting things I’ve ever seen the cops do,” he writes.
Like Father, Like DaughterCasey’s compulsive lying was the center of media attention, but little attention was paid to her family’s alleged penchant for falsehood. In an interview with Baez, George Anthony’s first wife maintained that her former husband was a pathological liar. (“George couldn’t tell the truth to save his life,” she said.)
George Anthony’s Suicide AttemptNearly seven months after Caylee disappeared and after George Anthony testified against his daughter, he sent Baez a series of texts asking him to “apologize to Casey” on his behalf and subsequently “swallowed enough pills to kill himself.” Though Baez had previously noted something was off about Casey’s father, his suicide attempt and the circumstances surrounding it were red flags to the lawyer that George Anthony might have played a role in Caylee’s death. After the suicide attempt, Baez learned that Casey’s older brother, Lee, and her father had both moved out after Caylee was born. The prosecution had focused on Casey’s “chloroform” and “neck breaking” searches on her computer, but they neglected to mention that these were “among a slew of searches on topics like self-defense for women, the lawyer writes. Before Baez heard accusations from Casey herself that her father and brother allegedly sexually abused her, he heard part of the story from her former boyfriend Jesse Grund. Grund said Anthony had previously told him she never left Caylee alone with her brother because she was scared he would “touch her inappropriately,” as he had done to her when she was a teenager. “Casey’s critics in the public in the media have said she made up [the sexual abuse] charges to get herself acquitted of murder charges…but this was no recent fabrication. The conversation with Jesse took place two-and-a-half years before Casey was charged of murder,” he writes. When Baez first confronted George Anthony about his daughter’s allegations of sexual abuse, he writes, the father didn’t deny that it happened. Despite the number of times she had lied to Baez about her alleged nanny, he had reason to believe that her claims of sexual and physical abuse were truthful.
The Day Caylee Disappeared, According to Casey“‘Where the hell is Caylee? Where the hell is Caylee?’” Casey awoke early on the morning of June 16, 2008, to her father’s frantic voice, Baez writes. “Caylee usually slept in my bed, but on this morning I was alone,” Casey told Baez. They searched the house and the garage, and Casey noticed that the pool ladder was still attached. Then she saw her father carrying Caylee. “I could see Caylee was dripping wet. I could tell she was dead,” she continued, according to Baez. “My father started yelling at me, ‘It’s all your fault. Look what you’ve done. You weren’t watching her. You’re going to go to fucking jail for child neglect…It’s all your fault.” Baez writes that George told her not to tell anyone what had happened, especially her mother, and that he’d take care of everything. When her father went to work that morning, Casey tried to call her mother at work, but she didn’t pick up. Phone records revealed she tried to call her mother six times in four minutes. But when she didn’t answer, Casey just “went to Tony’s house and acted like it never happened,” Baez writes.
Casey’s Bad BehaviorIn the subsequent 31 days, Casey seemed to go on about her life as if nothing had happened—an argument that the prosecution used in its efforts to prove that she was a bad mother and that she murdered her daughter so that Caylee wouldn’t get in the way of her partying lifestyle (a “weak motive” for murder, according to Baez). There was still plenty of evidence of bad behavior on all sides. Why didn’t Casey immediately call the police the morning she learned her daughter was dead? Why didn’t George call the police? Baez presumed that they both felt guilty. Casey had been texting late with her boyfriend the night before, knowing she had to watch Caylee in the morning. “[Casey] had also been on the computer early in the morning, just before seven, figuring Caylee would be okay with George for a little while, and when it turned out she was wrong about that, the guilt ate her up,” Baez writes. A search of the family’s computer indicated that George had clicked on a link that read “venturing into the pro-suicide pit” the day Caylee died.
How Alleged Abuse Factored Into a Murder CaseBaez maintains that “despite the headlines, this case was never about sexual abuse.” It was, after all, a murder case in which the suspect faced a death sentence if found guilty. But Baez writes that “her sexual abuse was an explanation for why she acted the way she did” in the month following Caylee’s disappearance, and the evidence that abuse had allegedly occurred was relevant enough to use in Casey’s defense, Baez writes. It explained why she was so comfortable with covering up the truth, because she had been doing so ever since her father allegedly molested her when she was 8 years old, the lawyer writes. “And the only reason she didn’t come forward? Victims of sexual abuse almost never do. They are too afraid that their parents will be arrested, that their families will be broken up, that the parents won’t love them anymore, and most importantly, that no one will believe them.” Casey didn’t invent a nanny or pretend she had a job when she didn’t until after Caylee was born, when she was determined to keep her daughter away from her father and brother, Baez writes.
‘An Accident That Snowballed Out of Control’“I used the confession that George had made to his lover Krystal Holloway,” Baez writes of his opening statements in trial. There was no forensic evidence that a murder had occurred. Before Caylee’s body was found, during the period when George was passing out fliers and asking for donations to help find his missing granddaughter, he had broken into tears during a conversation with his mistress. When she asked about Caylee, George told her: “It was an accident that snowballed out of control,” according to Baez.