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Video: Alternate juror defends not guilty verdict

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7/6/2011 7:34:36 PM ET 2011-07-06T23:34:36

One of the 12 jurors who acquitted Casey Anthony of first-degree murder told ABC News that she didn't think there was enough evidence to convict the Florida mother of killing her 2-year-old.

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Jennifer Ford, or juror No. 3, said the jurors were "sick to their stomach" after coming to the decision. "I did not say she was innocent," Ford, a 32-year-old nursing student told ABC. "I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

Ford also explained why the jury opted against speaking to the media right after the verdict was announced. "It was emotional and we weren't ready. We wanted to do it with integrity and not contribute to the sensationalism of the trial."

Earlier, an alternate juror also defended the not guilty verdict. Russell Huekler, who did not play a part in deciding the case but sat through the trial, told NBC's TODAY that the prosecution had failed to prove the murder charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

"I definitely agree that they (jurors) did get it right. I support that decision whole-heartedly," he said, speaking from St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Image: Casey Anthony reacts with her defense team following her acquittal in Orlando
Red Huber  /  Pool via Reuters
Casey Anthony reacts with her defense team following her acquittal on first degree murder charges of her daughter Caylee at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday.
Huekler laid out three reasons:

  • The prosecution "didn't present the evidence that would have sustained either a murder charge or a manslaughter charge."
  • They also failed to show a motive. "We ... kept waiting to see what was the motive — just because Casey was a party girl did not show why she would possibly, you know, kill Caylee.”
  • And the prosecution was also unable to say "how did Caylee actually pass away."

Asked whether Huekler thought Anthony, 25, was innocent or if he had reasonable doubt she was guilty, he said, "Definitely reasonable doubt for myself."

Story: Former fiance: Anthony family a ‘carnival of dysfunctionality’

Huekler said the "$64,000 question" was why Anthony failed to report her daughter's disappearance and told lies to police.

But he said it was important to remember that "the lies just didn't start with the death of Caylee" but several years before that. "I personally think this family was dysfunctional," he said.

Speaking to TODAY, Jeff Ashton, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, said the verdict was "not easy to hear" and he thought he had "mouthed the word 'wow' about five times."

"We were all that shocked," he said.

Video: Prosecutor: I was ‘shocked’ by verdict (on this page)

Ashton said he did not think the defense's account of Caylee's death — that she died accidentally in a swimming pool — was true.

"I cannot believe that's what happened ... but again, beyond reasonable doubt is a high standard," he told TODAY.

Story: Next for Casey Anthony: Big bucks?

'A rather important deception'
Ashton said that Casey Anthony's mother Cindy might face prosecution for perjury in the case for what he described as a "rather important deception that obviously was proven to be so by the other evidence."

He said he did not think the truth would ever be known "even if Casey got out of jail and wrote a book" about it because he would not be able to believe what she said.

It remains unclear where Anthony will go if she is released from jail, but her former fiance Jesse Grund told TODAY there was "no way" she would return to live with her parents.

Casey Anthony verdict fails to crush the Internet

"She's going to have money ... she's going to have that partying lifestyle she so craved," he said.

During the case, the defense accused the defendant's father, George, of molesting her.

In a statement issued through the Anthony family lawyer, Mark Lippman, Cindy, George and their son Lee Anthony said "while the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life."

"They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives. Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them," the statement added.

It asked the media to give them time to "reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately."

The statement asked that anyone wanting to honor Caylee by leaving stuffed animals or other toys near their home should instead donate them "in Caylee' s name to families in need, religious centers, or any other entity where the toys would be appreciated."

Anthony has been in jail since her October 2008 arrest on first-degree murder charges. She avoided a possible death sentence thanks to her acquittal on the murder count. The case began in July 2008 when Caylee was reported missing.

She is waiting to learn if she could spend her first night out of jail in almost three years since she was first accused in the case.

Anthony was only convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators Tuesday, and it's possible that Judge Belvin Perry could sentence her to time already served for those crimes at a hearing Thursday.

The four counts of lying to sheriff's deputies each carry a maximum sentence of one year. Since she has been in jail for nearly three years already, she could walk free.

The trial became a national sensation on cable TV, with its CSI-style testimony about duct-tape marks on the child's face and the smell of death inside a car trunk.

After a trial of a month and a half, the jury took less than 11 hours to find Anthony not guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.

'Ecstatic'
Tears welled in Anthony's eyes, her face reddened, her lips trembled, and she began breathing heavily as she listened to the verdict.

"I'm very happy for Casey, ecstatic for her and I want her to be able to grieve and grow and somehow get her life back together," defense attorney Jose Baez said Tuesday. "I think this case is a perfect example of why the death penalty does not work ... Murder is not right, no matter who does it."

Many in the crowd of about 500 people outside the courthouse reacted with anger after the verdict was read, chanting, "Justice for Caylee!" One man yelled, "Baby killer!"

Given the relative speed with which the jury came back with a verdict, many court-watchers were expecting Anthony to be convicted in the killing, and they were stunned by the outcome.
Prosecutors contended that Anthony — a single mother living with her parents — suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to hit the nightclubs and spend time with her boyfriend.

Defense attorneys argued that the little girl accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and that Anthony panicked and hid the body because of the traumatic effects of being sexually abused by her father.

Anthony's attorney Cheney Mason blasted the media after the verdict.

Video: Defense team criticizes pundits

"Well, I hope that this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, prejudice and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be," Mason said.

"I'm disgusted by some of the lawyers that have done this, and I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don't know a damn thing about."

The jurors — seven women and five men — would not talk to the media, and their identities were kept secret by the court.

NBC News, ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Timeline: Verdict reached in Casey Anthony murder trial

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