After three years in jail and a “trial of the century,” Casey Anthony is free. But the 25-year-old Florida woman faces an uncertain future and an uphill battle as she re-enters society.
Anthony was released from jail Sunday, 12 days after a jury acquitted her on murder and child neglect charges related to the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Following the polarizing verdict, public opinion was not on Anthony’s side. The fact that she was given credit for time served on a four-year sentence for lying to police, allowing for her release this weekend, seems to have only added fuel to the fire.
The “I hate Casey Anthony” Facebook page has more than 45,000 fans; the “F— Casey Anthony” page has more than 775,000. There are more dedicated to keeping her from seeking refuge in Puerto Rico, Europe, Oregon, Texas and Virginia, among other locales.
Death threats and unkind words abound in the social media realm, and in the real world, Anthony’s civil attorney, Charles Greene, said he’s received several death threats directed at his client.
Is Casey Anthony in danger?
Anthony is not the first acquitted defendant to face an unadmiring public upon her release. She’s been compared to O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and Mary Winkler, the Tennessee woman who served less than two months in jail on a manslaughter conviction for shooting her preacher husband.
But even they had the benefit of a support network — friends, family, entourage — to help them get back on their feet (at least for a little while).
“The first thing Casey Anthony needs to do is go to comfort zone and I don’t know where that safe place, that happy place is for her. She’s going to need counseling and comforting from others. The question for her is where will she find the others?” said defense lawyer Steve Farese Sr., who represented Mary Winkler in her 2007 trial.
“My advice to her would be to grow up: you lost three years in prison, try to get your life on the right track. I’d advise her to move from the community in which she lived. I might even advise her to change her name and be careful who your friends are, because there will be people who want to latch on to her infamy.”
Plans for her release from the Orange County Booking and Release Center in Orlando reflected the extraordinary level of scrutiny that the case has received.
Law enforcement didn’t reveal the time of her release or her precise exit point from the sprawling facility. Three journalists — one still photographer, one videographer and a print reporter — were admitted into the facility Saturday night to document her release, but they weren’t allowed to share any information until she left the grounds.
Beyond that point, she was to be treated just like any other inmate leaving the custody of the state, Orange County Sheriff Jeffrey Demmings told reporters Thursday.
“We will not be providing any elaborate security protection for Casey once she leaves,” he said. “We don’t pick up security concerns unless there’s a credible threat.”
It’s unclear where Anthony will head to first for comfort or support. She turned down a jailhouse visit from her mother after the verdict and her lawyers have implied that there’s no reunion with her parents planned in the immediate future.
No friends have come forward to publicly speak on her behalf. Her most vocal defenders have been her lawyers, who have expressed fear for her safety in light of public outrage over the verdict and sentence.
“People support her more theoretically than personally. They’ll say the verdict shows the system works, stop second-guessing it. That’s the support she’s receiving, rather than people supporting her personally or what she did,” said California criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos, who represented convicted wife killer Scott Peterson in what was referred to at the time as the “trial of the century.”
The most apparent sign that she has any supporters comes from her jailhouse commissary account, which showed nearly $500 in donations from strangers across the United States and Canada. (The money paid for snacks like jalapeño nachos, peanut M&Ms and a strawberry toaster pastry, as well as cosmetics and toiletries: mascara, toothpaste and ponytail holders.)
Otherwise, Anthony lacks the financial backing that allowed Simpson and Jackson to seek refuge in foreign countries while the heat died down.
Simpson spent years resuscitating his career in Japan after he was acquitted of murder charges in the death of wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. Jackson wound up in Bahrain, at the invitation of the king’s son, after his acquittal on child molestation charges.
Anthony also lacks the support of friends, family and a group of sympathetic well-wishers that awaited Winkler upon her release from the mental health facility where she received treatment as part of her sentence. Winkler had a job at a laundromat in McMinnville, Tennessee, and a custody battle for her two daughters awaiting her.
“The main thing that Mary had is, she had the goal of getting her children back. She had a purpose and when you have a purpose that keeps you going every day,” said Farese, Winkler’s attorney.
Some certainties lie ahead for Anthony, all drawing her back into the justice system. Her lawyers have filed notices of intent to appeal her four misdemeanor convictions. The move is widely considered to be strategic, as it will allow her to claim her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the various civil suits piling up against her.
Among those parties is search and rescue group Texas EquuSearch, which claims that Anthony misled them into providing more than $112,000 in services in an unnecessary attempt to locate Caylee for months despite knowing she was dead.
Anthony is also being sued for defamation by a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez. Anthony told investigators that was the name of Caylee’s nanny and that the woman had taken her daughter.
The judge handling the defamation lawsuit set Anthony’s deposition for October 8, despite requests from attorneys for Gonzalez, who said they feared she might disappear after her release from jail.
Apart from $537.68 she received from her inmate account, Anthony appears to be broke. Her lawyers declared her indigent before the trial began and have been defending her free of charge. But there could be money for her in her story down the road. Son of Sam laws, which prevent criminals from profiting off their crimes, would not apply to her.
Could Casey Anthony get a reality show?
Attorneys who spoke with CNN said they would not advise her against selling her story after the fervor has died down.
“The problem is, people get antsy or feel like they’ve got to do something or monetize their 15 minutes. She doesn’t immediately need to be doing interviews, photo shoots, anything to bring any attention to herself,” Geragos said.
“The public has a very short memory, and if she waits an appropriate period of time, people will move on to the next scandal du jour and she’ll probably be able to build a life for herself sooner than she thinks.”
Really, Mr. Geragos?
“Yes. Come September, when the Conrad Murray case comes along, people will be focused on that, or an arrest or trial will come soon that will eclipse this,” he said. “I’ve seen too many so-called ‘trials of the century’ that happen biannually.”