Casey Anthony's trial is a summer obsession
Casey Anthony was 19 when she had Caylee. She is now 25 and on trial, accused of killing Caylee with duct tape.
June 17th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Casey Anthony's trial is a summer obsession

Orlando, Florida (CNN) - Here in the land of Mickey, where parents lavish time and money to immerse their little ones in the magic of childhood, another name has stolen the show: Casey.

Casey Anthony, 25, is accused of killing her doe-eyed toddler and the murder trial is inescapable this summer: Inside the diner, the gym, the hair salon - even the car wash - TV screens are tuned in to the coverage and grabbing eyeballs.

At Fields BMW in suburban Winter Park, no one has switched channels in the customer lounge since testimony began four weeks ago.

"I don't think anybody's brave enough to grab the remote," said Whitney Lore, the cashier.

The drama sucked in Trevor Ball this week as he waited for his wife's BMW to be serviced. He fired off a Casey update to her by text: The prosecution rests.

Half the people who turn on their TVs in Orlando during the daytime are watching the trial, says Steve Hyvonen, news director at WKMG, a CNN affiliate. That usually only happens here when a hurricane hits.

So it's no surprise that all the local television stations have abandoned normal daytime programming to carry the trial live. Even the U.S. Open comes in second to Florida vs. Casey Anthony.

"It's the biggest thing that has happened in Orlando in years," said Mike Boslet, editor of Orlando magazine. "The whole world is watching."

Cable TV's usual suspects - Nancy Grace, Greta van Susteren and Geraldo Rivera - come and go in black SUVs from "Casey Land," the tent city that occupies a vacant lot across the street from the Orange County Courthouse. The scene is reminiscent of big trials of the past: O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, the Menendez brothers, Scott Peterson.

Why the Anthony case?

"You've got this attractive young mother and this horrible death of a child," said Robert Thompson, who teaches television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

"And then there are all those details - all the made-up jobs and made-up people and the 31 days the child was missing. Those are the kind of details that make this better than a crime drama," he explained.

"Once you start following this story, you're hooked."

The true-crime spectacle often threatens to obscure a sad truth: A little girl named Caylee never got to grow up. And a teenager with a wild streak had a baby too soon.

Caylee was a mistake, Casey's mother used to say. But she'd always add that the adorable little girl was the best mistake Casey ever made.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
June 17th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Deadly U.S. gun operation called 'felony stupid'

Washington (CNN) - Federal firearms agents in Arizona cringed every time they heard of a shooting after letting waves of guns pass into the hands of Mexican drug gangs, some of those agents told a House committee Wednesday.

It was part of an operation aimed at tracking the flow of weapons across the U.S.-Mexican border, but the operation has come under intense criticism since the December killing of a U.S. Border Patrol officer. Operation Fast and Furious, as the program was known, was "a colossal failure of leadership," said Peter Forcelli, a supervisor at the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

When U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded and six others were killed in a January assassination attempt in Tucson, Forcelli said, an agency spokesman told him "that there was concern from the chain of command that the gun was hopefully not a Fast and Furious gun." Another agent, Lee Casa, said, "This happened time and time again."

"Every time there's a shooting, whether it was Mrs. Giffords or anybody, any time there is a shooting in the general Phoenix area or even in, you know, Arizona, we're fearful that it might be one of these firearms," Casa told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The killings of three people connected with the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico, caused similar anxiety, Casa said.

And a third agent, John Dodson, told lawmakers: "I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest. I hope the committee will receive a better explanation than I."

Operation Fast and Furious focused on following "straw purchasers," or people who legally bought weapons that were then transferred to criminals and destined for Mexico. But instead of intercepting the weapons when they switched hands, Operation Fast and Furious called for ATF agents to let the guns "walk" and wait for them to surface in Mexico, according to a committee report.

The idea was that once the weapons in Mexico were traced back to the straw purchasers, the entire arms smuggling network could be brought down. Instead, the report argues, letting the weapons slip into the wrong hands was a deadly miscalculation that resulted in preventable deaths, including that of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
June 17th, 2011
01:57 AM ET

Perry's Principles: One on one with Michelle Rhee

Editor's note: CNN Education Contributor Steve Perry talks to one of the more polarizing figures in American education, Michelle Rhee.

Related: Special coverage of Perry's Principles on CNN.com

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Filed under: Education • Perry's Principles
June 17th, 2011
12:20 AM ET

The RidicuList: William Tapley (for the third time)

Editor's note: Anderson Cooper explains why William Tapley's YouTube clips have earned him a third spot on AC360's RidicuList.

Earlier: Tapley added to The RidicuList . . . again

Even Earlier: YouTube videos land man on The RidicuList

June 17th, 2011
12:11 AM ET

Crime & Punishment: Lawyers spar over Anthony defense

Editor's note: Anderson Cooper speaks with a former attorney for Casey Anthony and with a prosecutor about Anthony's defense.

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment
June 17th, 2011
12:05 AM ET

Crime & Punishment: Dr. Drew on Casey Anthony's web of lies

Editor's note: As Casey Anthony's defense begins, HLN's Dr. Drew sounds off on her history of telling elaborate lies.

Related: Anthony's elaborate web of lies

June 17th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Crime & Punishment: Anthony defense opens with hardball

Editor's note: CNN's Gary Tuchman reports on the first day of defense testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment
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