Little-Known Defense Lawyer Stuns Observers with Big Win for Casey Anthony in His First Capital Case

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Denied entry to the bar for years because of his handling of his personal finances and criticized by observers for taking a risky trial strategy in his first death-penalty defense, a little-known Florida lawyer has pulled off a stunning victory.

As Jose Baez stood beside his 25-year-old client today, Casey Anthony was acquitted of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse concerning the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Casey Anthony cried, smiled and embraced the defense team as those who had been captivated by the high-profile case—which some have compared to the O.J. Simpson murder trial that dominated the news in 1995—waited outside the Orlando courthouse for news of the verdict and in front of television screens throughout the world.

The defense abilities of the 42-year-old Navy veteran had been doubted by observers ranging from television pundit Nancy Grace to Anthony’s own family members, the Daily Mail reports.

After graduating from law school in 1997, he spent years persuading the Florida supreme court that his refusal to pay child support and loan default, among other issues, shouldn’t prevent him from being admitted to the state bar. He finally won that argument and got his law license in 2005.

Learning, in 2008, who Anthony had selected as her counsel, when the decision went public, “I first said, ‘Jose who?’ ” said Richard Hornsby, president of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in an interview with ABC News. “I had no idea who he was.”

Now Baez is a household name. His client faces a maximum prison term of one year on each of the four misdemeanor counts on which she was convicted when she is sentenced on Thursday, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“While we are happy for Casey, there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far too soon,” he said after the verdict. However, “Casey did not murder Caylee. It is that simple, and today our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction.”

Additional and related coverage: “Casey Anthony Guilty of Providing False Info, Acquitted of First-Degree Murder and Manslaughter”

ABC News: “Casey Anthony Back in Jail But Could Get Bail”

Show Tracker (Los Angeles Times): “Nancy Grace says ‘the devil is dancing’ at Casey Anthony verdict”

Raycom Media: “Social network users tweet anger at Anthony verdict”

Orlando Sentinel: “Prosecutor in Casey Anthony case to retire”

Reuters: “Anthony verdict a victory for “reasonable doubt,” experts say”

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