A Florida appellate court has thrown out two of the four convictions of Casey Anthony, the woman who was acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter but convicted of lying to detectives seeking to find out what happened to the child.
In a 15-page ruling released on Friday, judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals effectively agreed with Anthony’s lawyers that two of the misdemeanor charges should be dropped.
The nation was riveted by the story of Anthony and her daughter Caylee, who was last seen in June 2008. Caylee Anthony was reported missing by her grandmother, Cindy, in mid-July. Casey Anthony, after initially telling investigators that the child had been kidnapped, was charged with first-degree murder in October 2008.
Caylee's skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home in December.
After a celebrated trial fueled by cable television reports and social media, a jury on July 5, 2011, acquitted Casey of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. The jurors found her guilty of the four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. With credit for time served, she was released on July 17, 2011.
During the investigation, Casey Anthony was interviewed by detectives. Anthony's attorneys argued that all of the lies should be considered a single offense, while the state insisted each false statement was a separate offense. The defense maintained that the conviction on four counts was an example of double jeopardy -- convicting someone more than once on the same grounds.
The four statements were made to Orange County Sheriff's Det. Yuri Melich at Casey’s family home in Florida, according to the decision. Two of the lies were repeated to Melich at a later interview.
In its ruling, the appeals court held that Anthony could be convicted of two counts and dropped two of the convictions.
“We cannot conclude that the Legislature intended to authorize separate punishment for each false statement made during a single interview,” the judges said in their ruling.
But the judges noted there was a break in time between the interviews.
“Where there is a sufficient temporal break between two alleged criminal acts so as to have allowed a defendant time to pause, reflect and form a new criminal intent, a separate criminal episode will have occurred,” the judges said.
In a related issue, the judges upheld the trial judge’s decision to let Anthony’s statements be used. Anthony's attorneys had argued that she was in police custody at the time and hadn't been read her rights.
The appellate judges held that reading Casey her rights was not needed during the interview with detectives, because a reasonable person in Casey’s position would not believe “that his or her freedom was curtailed to a degree associated with actual arrest.”
After she was released from jail, Anthony was sentenced to a year of probation for an unrelated case involving check fraud. Her whereabouts have been secret since she was released from state supervision last year.