Caylee Marie Anthony (August 9, 2005 – 2008) was a two-year-old American girl who lived in Orlando, Florida, with her mother, Casey Marie Anthony (born March 19, 1986), and her maternal grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony. On July 15, 2008, she was reported missing in a 9-1-1 call made by Cindy, who said she had not seen Caylee for 31 days and that Casey's car smelled like a dead body had been inside it. Cindy said Casey had given varied explanations as to Caylee's whereabouts before finally telling her that she had not seen Caylee for weeks. Casey told detectives several falsehoods, including that Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny on June 9, and that she had been trying to find her, too frightened to alert the authorities. She was charged with first-degree murder in October 2008 and pleaded not guilty.
On December 11, 2008, Caylee's skeletal remains were found with a blanket inside a trash bag in a wooded area near the family home. Investigative reports and trial testimony alternated between duct tape being found near the front of the skull and on the mouth of the skull. The medical examiner mentioned duct tape as one reason she ruled the death a homicide, but officially listed it as "death by undetermined means".
The trial lasted six weeks, from May to July 2011. The prosecution sought the death penalty and alleged Casey wished to free herself from parental responsibilities and murdered her daughter by administering chloroform and applying duct tape. The defense team, led by Jose Baez, countered that the child had drowned accidentally in the family's swimming pool on June 16, 2008, and that George Anthony disposed of the body. The defense contended that Casey lied about this and other issues because of a dysfunctional upbringing, which they said included sexual abuse by her father. The defense did not present evidence as to how Caylee died, nor evidence that Casey was sexually abused as a child, but challenged every piece of the prosecution's evidence, calling much of it "fantasy forensics". Casey did not testify. On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, but guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. With credit for time served, she was released on July 17, 2011. A Florida appeals court overturned two of the misdemeanor convictions on January 25, 2013.
The not guilty murder verdict was greeted with public outrage, and was both attacked and defended by media and legal commentators. Some complained that the jury misunderstood the meaning of reasonable doubt, while others said the prosecution relied too heavily on the defendant's allegedly poor moral character because they had been unable to show conclusively how the victim had died. Time magazine described the case as "the social media trial of the century".