U.S. News

Florida court tosses two Casey Anthony lying convictions

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Casey Anthony, who was famously acquitted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2011, saw a Florida appeals court overturn two of her four convictions on Friday for lying to detectives investigating the toddler’s disappearance.

Casey Anthony sits at the defense table after the jury left to begin deliberations in her first degree murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, July 4, 2011. REUTERS/Red Huber/Pool

While Anthony was acquitted of murdering Caylee, whose body was ultimately found in woods near their home, she was found guilty of lying four times to detectives who responded to a 2008 call from Anthony’s mother reporting the girl missing.

Anthony’s lawyers appealed the convictions, saying her lies should have been construed as a single violation because her statements were made over the course of one extended interview with detectives who responded to the missing person report.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach split the difference on Friday, finding that Anthony gave two separate interviews to detectives, thus letting two convictions stand but throwing out the rest.

The court also found that Anthony was not in police custody during her interviews and rejected a defense argument that all convictions be thrown out because she was not read Miranda rights that allow her to choose not to speak to police.

Anthony’s lawyer, Cheney Mason said in a statement that he was “very happy with this latest victory,” adding no decision had been taken on whether to pursue further appeals.

Jeff Ashton, one of Anthony’s prosecutors who is now the state attorney in Florida’s Orange County, said he understood and respected the appellate court’s ruling. “Once the trial court vacates the appropriate counts pursuant to the District Court’s opinion, we expected the case of the State of Florida vs. Casey Marie Anthony will be closed,” Ashton said in a statement.

In July 2008, Anthony told detectives that Caylee was kidnapped by a nanny, triggering a nationwide search for the girl that was followed intensely by cable television news and entertainment shows. At trial, her defense lawyers claimed Caylee drowned in the family’s backyard pool.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Caylee might have been smothered by duct tape wrapped around her head before her body was left in the woods.

Anthony was convicted of lying four times when she told lead detective Yuri Melich that she left Caylee with a nanny named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, that she was employed at Universal Studios Orlando, that she told co-workers that Caylee was missing, and that she later received a phone call from Caylee.

A Central Florida woman named Zenaida Gonzalez subsequently sued Anthony for defamation. Her civil suit was delayed while Anthony refused to testify during the course of her criminal appeal.

Editing by Tom Brown, Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay