The seven-woman, five-man jury, who deliberated for just a day after a more than six-week trial, also found the 25-year-old not guilty of child abuse and aggravated manslaughter.
Outside the courthouse, many in the crowd of 500 reacted with anger, chanting, “Justice for Caylee!” One man yelled, “Baby killer!”.
In perhaps the most disputed verdict in the US since OJ Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his wife, Anthony was cleared of murder, manslaughter and child-abuse charges after weeks of television coverage and armchair-lawyer punditry that one of her attorneys denounced as “media assassination”.
She was found guilty on four counts of providing false information to law enforcement – misdemeanor charges that will likely see Anthony set free, after time served in prison awaiting the trial.
Had she been convicted of first-degree murder, Anthony could have faced the death penalty in a widely publicised trial that became a media circus centred on the Orange County, Florida courthouse.
Prosecution lawyers claimed Anthony had suffocated her daughter with duct tape, dumped the body in her car for a few days and then hid it. The skeletal remains of the little girl’s body were found almost six months later.
The defence team maintained the toddler drowned accidentally and that Anthony, along with her father George, covered up the death – circumstances that he denied.
In a statement released through their lawyer, Casey Anthony’s mother, father and brother said the verdict brought “closure” to this period of their life, and they will now “begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.”
“Despite the baseless defence 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,” said the statement. –AFP