Casey Anthony: The System Worked

You are disappointed, aren’t you? Perhaps even enraged. Why no verdict since the O.J. Simpson case has so offended you. Of course, O.J. murdered his ex-wife and her lover. Of course, Casey Anthony killed her toddler so she could party. Today’s verdict is another example of why the criminal justice system is a sick joke, a cruel hoax. You could of resolved this case in a bullet’s time. And you would have, wouldn’t you? You would have done so in the name of righteousness.

In case you have actually had to work for a living and have not yet heard, a Florida jury acquitted Casey Anthony today of murder, convicting her only of making false statements to law enforcement officers trying to get her to confess. A jury of her peers sat through 33 days of evidence and two days of closing arguments. They watched. They looked. They listened. And then they found her not guilty. 

You think your arm chair-deliberations based on loose snippets of trial superior to the wisdom of the 12 men and women selected to hold the government to its burden of proof? Perhaps you cast your ballot on Nancy Grace’s website, oh, she, of infinite rage.

I was working on bookcases with a workman in a building where I rent space in New Haven today when news of the verdict broke. I told him. “You mean the woman who killed her kids?,” the man said. “What’s this country coming to.” Like me, he was too busy to do more than surf headlines and selected news stories about the trial. But in his mind, motive was enough to convict her. “She wanted to get back to the partying life,” he said.

Perhaps. But the state never explained how the toddler died. Neither did the defense. But only the state had the burden of proof. And the state failed, despite a valiant effort and enough junk science to fill a vaudeville tent. Motive isn’t enough to convict. If motive were, we’d all be killers, or thieves, or criminals of a different color depending on which of the deadly sins we decided to serve on a whim. The lust in Jimmy Carter’s heart made him a rapist, didn’t it?

Talking heads heaped scorn on her defense lawyer, Jose Baez. He was inelegant, argumentative, a loose cannon, and so forth. But he found his mark. Is it possible that he so unnerved the prosecution than when the prosecutor matched below the belt blow for below the belt blow, the jury lost trust in the prosecution? Prosecutors are more than advocates. They are supposed to be ministers of justice. Juries expect and forgive sand-throwing by defense lawyers fighting for the life of their client; juries expect better than bluster from the prosecution.

But just like you, I was not at the trial. I didn’t even see the verdict come in. I was moving into a new office today, doing work with my hands and enjoying the sweat on my brow. I wondered how long the jury would be out in this case. It was a long trial. The state threw so much mud at Casey Anthony, I, too, could see her killing her child and then lying to try to get away with it. I was as stunned by this verdict as I was by the verdict in O.J.’s case: Motive makes it possible to tell such nasty, and, truth be told, satisfying stories.

Congratulations to Jose Baez. This will be the win of a lifetime for the young lawyer. He will cherish it almost as much as will Casey Anthony. Too often, the state takes liberty and a life on evidence that is far from compelling.

And what will you do with this verdict? Will you still hate Ms. Anthony and her lawyer? Will you look for ways to make sure these cases are harder to defend? Will you stop to consider that a jury of your peers, a group selected to evaluate all of the evidence, saw things you never saw? Will you?

Perhaps you will even go so far as to breathe a sigh of relief now that this case is over. Doesn’t it teach that lies don’t prove cause of death? That so-called consciousness of guilt evidence is mere garbage on the courtroom floor? That motive alone ought never be enough to convict? That you talk to police at your peril?

Casey Anthony will soon go free. Perhaps she did kill her child. One jury found reason to doubt that after the state put on the best case money can buy. I am relieved today that the system worked. The easy thing would have been to lynch Casey Anthony before trial. Or to ignore the requirements the rule of law imposed. Instead, a jury deliberated and decided.

The system worked today. What are you going to do about that? Me? I might turn on Nancy Grace tonight, something I haven’t done in years. I want see what a self-righteous implosion looks like. Poor Nancy.

Comments: (1)

  • System Worked?
    As prosecutors and judges get dumber, juries are getting smarter. Maybe we've turned a corner, as the public is wiseing-up. Prosecutorial misconduct will no longer be tolerated. These are not jobs where you just show up and draw your pay w/out oversight or accountability. I note the state's attorney here announced his resignation almost immediately, as he should.
    Posted on July 6, 2011 at 2:06 am by william doriss

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