Anger as Casey Anthony set for freedom

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The Independent US

US mother Casey Anthony, cleared of killing her two-year-old daughter in a trial that became a media sensation, will be released from prison in about a week after being sentenced on charges she lied to investigators.

Anthony, 25, was sentenced by a judge in Orlando, Florida, today to four years for the four counts of lying to police, but she has already served nearly three years in jail and was given credit for good behaviour.

A court official said she would be released on Wednesday.

Judge Belvin Perry also fined her 1,000 dollars (£6,200) on each count.

Inside the courtroom, before her sentence was announced, Anthony was animated, smiling and occasionally played with her hair, which was let down for the first time since her trial began in late May.

Perhaps she thought, like many, that she would be freed as early as today. Her demeanour changed to stone-faced when she heard she would be spending more time in jail.

Her defence lawyers, who had been pressing for Anthony to be released today, argued before sentencing that her convictions should be combined into one, but the judge disagreed.

Anthony was convicted of lying to investigators about working at the Universal Studios theme park, about leaving her daughter with a non-existent nanny named Zanny, about leaving the girl with friends and about receiving a phone call from her.

The verdict in her trial - which generated an outpouring of anger among many Americans who had closely watched the highly publicised case - continued to be the talk of cable and network news after she was acquitted of first-degree murder on Tuesday.

The scene outside the courthouse today highlighted the strong public response. Amid increased police presence, a throng of protesters held signs that said "Arrest the Jury!!" and "Jurors 1-12 Guilty of Murder."

Nearby, a handful of supporters also turned out, including a man who held a sign asking Casey Anthony to marry him.

Prosecutors contended Anthony, then 22, suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she was interfering with the single mother's desire to be with her boyfriend and party with her friends.

Defence lawyers said the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool. They said that when Anthony panicked, her father, a former police officer, decided to make the death look like a murder. They said he put duct tape on the girl's mouth and then dumped the body in woods about a quarter-mile away.

The defence said Anthony's apparent carefree life hid emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father. Her father firmly denied both the cover-up and abuse claims. The prosecution called those claims absurd, and said no one makes an accident look like a murder.

When she is released, Anthony could be hard-pressed to piece together some semblance of a normal life.

Threats have been made against her, and online she is being vilified. More than 17,000 people "liked" the "I hate Casey Anthony" page on Facebook, which included comments wishing her the same fate that befell little Caylee.

Ti McCleod, who lives a few doors from Anthony's parents, said: "Society is a danger to Casey; she's not a danger to society."

"Anthony will always be dogged by the belief that she killed her child," said Lewis Katz, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "She will never lead a normal life."

Anthony's lawyer, Jose Baez, said before the verdict that he was concerned about his client's safety when she is freed, given the high emotions surrounding the case.

Jurors declined to talk with reporters immediately after Tuesday's verdict, and juror Jennifer Ford said in an interview that the case was a troubling one.

"I did not say she was innocent," Ford told ABC TV. "I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be."

Ford said the fact that Anthony could have faced the death penalty was a consideration.

"If they want to charge and they want me to take someone's life, they have to prove it. They have to prove it, or else I'm a murderer too."