The power of the state was checked by the power of the jury.
Casey's show trial was supposed to be a one-sided drubbing, pitting the best and brightest of Lawson Lamar's office against a strip-mall defense attorney.
The only question was: Would Casey burn at the stake or spend an eternity in prison?
And then, isolated from the show surrounding them, the jurors took an objective look at the evidence and reached their stunning conclusion.
Given José Baez's performance, it's hard to argue that they were duped by a slick defense lawyer.
No, this one was decided on the merits of a weak case.
Prosecutors had computer searches for suspicious words, a smelly trunk, bones that gave up their clues long ago, the mysterious presence of duct tape on Caylee's skull, and a mother behaving very coldly and very badly.
They fit these scattered pieces into a story line about a pent-up hot body yearning for freedom and willing to kill her own toddler to achieve it.
But there was too much story and too little evidence.
All they could prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, was that Casey was a sociopathic liar from a very dysfunctional family.
Afterward, State Attorney Lawson Lamar pardoned his office, calling this a "cold-bones case'' that was difficult to prove.
So why did he turn it into a hugely expensive death-penalty extravaganza?
Why did he throw the full resources of his agency into it while at the same time complaining his prosecutors were overwhelmed with too many murders and too little money?
You might think that under such circumstances, a state attorney would reserve the death penalty for only the most heinous of crimes, where the evidence was overwhelming and the suspect a threat to society.
Casey Anthony met neither of these criteria.
This was a political prosecution by a veteran politician.
The State Attorney's Office went after Casey by popular demand. It was legal-tainment, part reality television and part freak show.