As infamous as O.J. Simpson – and acquitted of murder charges just the same – Casey Anthony has been partially vindicated before the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Florida.
The appellate court announced Friday that they were vacating two of Anthony’s four misdemeanor convictions rendered by the same Orange County Circuit Court jurors that acquitted her of murdering two-year old Caylee Anthony.
Following her acquittal of murder, Anthony appealed her convictions on four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer during a missing person investigation. The substance of her false statement surrounded several statements given by Anthony to Detective Yuri Melich on July 16, 2008 surrounding the disappearance of Caylee.
On appeal, Anthony argued that the convictions should be reversed because the trial court improperly denied her request to suppress statements made to law enforcement officers prior to being apprised of her Miranda rights.
She also argued that multiple convictions for the same conduct violated the prohibition against double jeopardy and that the Florida Statute in relation to false or misleading statements was unconstitutionally vague.
In rejecting Anthony’s first and third arguments, the Appellate Court agreed that the prohibition against double jeopardy required reversal of two of the four misdemeanor convictions against her.
The opinion cites the narrative of events where Anthony allegedly lied to law enforcement officers.
Anthony argued to the Fifth District Court of Appeal that the principles behind the double jeopardy prohibition prevented her from being convicted of more than a single count of section 837.055, Florida Statutes, insofar as her alleged false statements to law enforcement constituted but a single offense.
The State of Florida took the position that each of Anthony’s alleged false statements constituted a distinct and separate offense. As such, no double jeopardy violation occurred and the jury properly convicted her of four separate criminal offenses.
On the evening of July 15, 2008, law enforcement officers responded to the residence of Anthony’s parents – George and Cindy Anthony – in response to three separate 911 calls placed.
In the first two calls, Cindy Anthony requested assistance in recovering a vehicle and money allegedly stolen by Casey Anthony. In a third call to police dispatchers, Caylee Anthony was reported as missing for approximately 30 days.
At trial, Cindy Anthony testified that these 911 calls were made because Casey Anthony would not disclose the whereabouts of Caylee.
Upon arrival at the residence and according to standard law enforcement protocol, officers separated family members and obtained statements regarding the missing two-year old child.
Casey Anthony initially appeared to be cooperating with law enforcement and provided information freely and voluntarily. She informed officers that she had last seen Caylee on June 8, 2008 when she was dropped off at the apartment of her nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez.
Informing officers that Fernandez-Gonzalez lived at the Sawgrass Apartments in Orlando, Anthony could not recall an apartment number.
Anthony agreed to go with Deputy Acevedo to show her where Caylee was dropped off. Sitting in the back seat of a patrol car, Anthony freely communicated with the deputy.
Thereafter, Anthony was driven home and provided law enforcement with a written statement.
The distinction between verbal and written narrative was so convoluted that officers subsequently arrested Anthony.
On July 5, 2011 an Orlando jury – in acquitting Anthony of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child – found her guilty of four separate misdemeanor offenses of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. She was sentenced on each misdemeanor count to one year in jail, to be served consecutively. Having received substantial credit for time served, Anthony was released days later on July 17, 2011.
On appeal, the Appellate Court ruled against the arguments of both parties, but later concluded under the facts of the case that Anthony could only be convicted of two counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer during a missing person investigation.
In substance, each of the four statements made by Anthony with Detective Melich were made at her residence. Two of the statements were subsequently repeated in a later interview at Universal Studios, where Anthony falsely claimed she was currently employed.
In providing false information to Detective Melich during two separate interviews hours apart, the Appellate Court found there to be a sufficient temporal break between the alleged criminal acts to have allowed Anthony time to pause, reflect, and form a new criminal intent as to each of the offenses. Therefore, a separate criminal episode between the interview at the Anthony residence and Universal Studios was found to have occurred.
“The Constitution prohibits conviction for multiple offenses arising from similar facts and like conduct,” Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney John Contini told Examiner. “No matter the defendant and the circumstances surrounding a case, the Court is required to uphold the law of the land. In this instance they have.”
Notwithstanding a reversal of two of the four misdemeanor convictions, Anthony remains a convicted felon, having previously pled guilty to worthless check and fraud charges in a Florida court. She recently completed probation and has been in hiding since her acquittal.
The civil case brought forth by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez had been on hold pending the outcome of Anthony’s appeal.