Porch lights burned through the night as the story playing out in an Orlando courtroom struck a local nerve with the verdict, “not guilty.”
Residents in Brandon reacted, July 5, online and at Paul Saunders Park, as a woman in Maryland launched a Facebook campaign — Porch Lights on for Caylee Marie Anthony — after Caylee Anthony’s mother was acquitted of charges in her toddler’s death.
“Wow,” was Brandon resident Luis Caveda’s reaction after he heard the verdict for Casey Anthony, who faced a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder charges in her 2-year-old child’s death.
“Everyone I work with was very surprised,” said Caveda, who was interviewed July 5 at Paul Saunders Park. He said he had been following the trial closely since opening statements in the Orlando courthouse May 8.
“I was watching the morning news shows and all I heard was about what would happen when she was found guilty,” Caveda added. "The possibility of a not guilty verdict wasn’t in the wind at all.”
Casey Anthony was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. Apparently, the weight of circumstantial evidence — including the prosecution’s contention that there was a “human decomposition odor” in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car —was not enough to sway the jury, which deliberated for 11 hours before finding Casey Anthony guilty solely of providing false information to law enforcement, according to an Orlando Sentinel report.
But Caveda still wants to know how any juror could reach a not guilty verdict based on the evidence he himself had observed as he kept abreast of the trial.
“She was convicted of lying to law enforcement,” Caveda said. "If you are lying to police you are trying to hide something so she must have been trying to hide something. I want a legal expect to explain how this could happen.”
Facebook Campaign and Petition
Meanwhile, a Maryland mother, Lisa Miller-Marin, launched her Facebook campaign, calling for porch lights to be turned on “for remembering a little girl.” A comment on the site linked to a petition, started by an Oklahoma man, for a “Caylee’s Law” that would make it a “federal offense for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement of a child going missing in a timely manner."
As of late July 5, more than 1.23 million people had promised to keep their porch lights on. By 2:45 a.m. July 6, that number had risen to “1,647,798 attending.” At around 1:30 a.m., a status announcement had been posted that the campaign, “after numerous requests,” was going to be extended for another night, “one night for each of [Caylee Anthony’s] short years.”
(UPDATE: By 10:50 a.m. July 6, the number had risen to "1,921,667 attending.”)
Range of Reactions
"At the time the verdict came out I was in shock," said Arnold Hennessy, who joined the porch light campaign. "The same system that is in place to allow us our freedom had just released this monster."
Hennessy turned on his porch light in New Jersey because he wanted to remember Caylee Anthony.
"I feel as though the verdict has been handed down and we now turn to a moment of commemoration,” he said. "I guess it is more for our peace of mind than anything. It is to let me know she didn't die in vain.”
While she said she believes Casey Anthony is guilty, Rebecca Davis was not surprised by the verdict in the high-profile murder case.
“There wasn’t enough evidence,” said Davis, a Brandon mother of five, at Paul Saunders Park in Brandon, after the July 5 verdict was announced. "You have to remember the jury didn’t see all the publicity and news shows. They were just looking at the evidence and following the judge’s instructions. The defense did just enough to outweigh the prosecution’s case. The sad thing is there is no justice for little Caylee.”
Mike Wood, who grew up in Brandon, responded to a Facebook request for comments for this story.
“It is better to see the jurors err on the side of letting off a person who might be guilty rather than imprisoning a person who might be innocent,” Wood wrote.
Tim Mandese of Brandon, also answering the Facebook request, said he thought the public needs to better understand the law in the case.
"People need to learn the difference between beyond a shadow of a doubt and a preponderance of evidence,” he said. "When they understand how and when those apply, then they will understand the verdict whether they agree with it or not. They have to do what the law says, not what their heart says."
The cable news shows on the trail have been a staple for Daniel McBride and his wife, Lorrie, over the past month. The Brandon couple, at Paul Saunders Park, expressed astonishment at the acquittal.
“There’s no way if my baby died I would go out and make up stories,” said Lorrie McBride, a mother of four, in reference to the activities Casey Anthony reportedly engaged in, in the weeks after her daughter’s disappearance. "I thought all the evidence pointed to her guilt.”
As for Daniel McBride, he said, “I felt sure she [Casey Anthony] was going down.”
“All the evidence pointed to her guilt,” he added. "Just the evidence about [the suspiciously foul smell] in the trunk of the car should have got her.”
Brandon Patch Editor Linda Chion Kenney contributed to this report.