As a matter of pure entertainment, NBC’s attempt to rehabilitate whatever remains of Casey Anthony’s reputation fails utterly.
We are now in the midst of a true crime renaissance, in which teenage TikTokers rummage through forensic evidence with much greater speed and less care than any police department ever would. And so NBC’s Peacock streaming service has opted to retell the story of the first blockbuster trial of the century. But this time, it is being told through the eyes of an emotionally unstable, pathological liar who likely got away with murder.
This three-part sham of a documentary, ironically titled, Where the Truth Lies, relies on Anthony’s delusions rather than the evidence used by either the prosecution or the defense in her murder trial. But to understand the journalistic malpractice committed by NBC, it’s worth recapping the arguments surrounding the 2008 death of Florida toddler Caylee Anthony.
The prosecution’s bevy of circumstantial evidence included the fact that Anthony hid the disappearance of her daughter for 31 days, during which time she incessantly partied and got a tattoo reading “Bella Vita,” which translates to “beautiful life.” When Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony, made Casey speak to the police on the 31st day of Caylee’s absence, Casey lied to both law enforcement and her parents, fabricating the existence of a nanny with whom Casey said she had left Caylee. She also falsely claimed that she worked at Universal Studios. Shortly after police arrested Casey for lying to law enforcement, enough material evidence accumulated — including Caylee’s corpse, evidence of deceased human remains in Casey’s car, and internet search history on Casey’s computer — to indict Casey on charges of homicide.
The defense initially claimed that Caylee accidentally drowned in the family pool, leading to her death. As some sort of excuse for her conduct, they also claimed, without evidence, that her father George had sexually abused her, which he has always denied. But the bulk of the defense’s argument — and the reason jurors later conceded they did not ultimately convict Casey for murdering her daughter — was designed to create reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s theory for Caylee’s death rather than to bolster any alternative theory.
And there’s a reason the defense did this. Their alternate theory about the pool was simply not backed by the evidence. The chief medical examiner called to the stand by the prosecution testified that Caylee’s death was most likely an intentional killing. Why? Because chloroform was found in Casey’s trunk and searches of “how to make chloroform” and “neck breaking” were found in Casey’s search history. The multiple layers of duct tape covering the mouth of Caylee’s corpse matched duct tape in the home Casey shared with her parents. But in the end, the defense sowed enough doubt to prevent a homicide conviction. Given the natural decay of evidence (more than six months elapsed between Caylee’s disappearance and the discovery of her corpse), the prosecution lacked a smoking gun.
This new documentary presents a third side — Casey’s own case. The now-36-year-old not only maintains that Caylee drowned but also that Casey’s father, George, drowned her intentionally. Casey now claims that she knew this the whole time but remained silent for 31 days, lied to law enforcement, and let herself be arrested, apparently just to protect her father, whom she accuses not only of repeatedly raping her but also suffocating her.
Everything bad about Casey, according to the Peacock series, is the result of something someone else did. Casey claims she became a pathological liar because her father and brother sexually abused her. Casey claims she became pregnant with Caylee at 18 because, you guessed it, she was drugged and raped. Casey claims she never gave the police Caylee’s whereabouts in the summer of 2008 because of her supposedly abusive father.
“He was standing there with her,” Casey claims in the series. “She was soaking wet. He handed her to me. Said it was my fault. That I caused it. But he didn’t rush to call 911 and he wasn’t trying to resuscitate her. I collapsed with her in my arms. She was heavy, and she was cold. He takes her from me and he immediately softens his tone and says, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I wanted to believe him. He took her from me and he went away.”
Casey also claims that it couldn’t have been an accident because the ladder for the Anthonys’ above-ground pool wasn’t accessible to Caylee.
How likely is that, given the forensic evidence that duct tape was placed on Caylee’s body before she died? About as likely as Casey’s claims that George repeatedly smothered her — and knew exactly when to stop and avoid accidentally killing her, too.
“He’d put a pillow over my face and smother me to knock me out,” Casey says. “That happened several times. I’m sure there were times where I was incapacitated as a child where my body was limp and lifeless.”
In a rather prescient Quartz piece published just one year before the chaotic confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Sandra Newman writes that documented false rape accusers almost all “have a previous history of bizarre fabrications or criminal fraud” and that they do so for “personal gain, mental illness, revenge, and the need for an alibi.”
Aside from all of the evidence, most of which was not mentioned in the Peacock documentary, Casey Anthony already fits that profile: she is a serial fabulist, possibly mentally ill, and desperately in need of an alibi. Now, with newfound fame and surely NBC-enabled paychecks, Anthony absolutely scored “personal gain” in exchange for accusing her father not just of rape but now of murder, all without the slightest shred of evidence.
All evidence to emerge since the trial, including Casey’s internet search history for “foolproof suffocation” prior to Caylee’s death, has been inculpatory of Casey. So why is NBC airing this at all, let alone doing so in a way that gives her story unwarranted credibility?