This post is one likely to inspire some controversy, but I’m okay with that. I also thought I was going to have some more time to post this, but I’m feeling a bit of a crunch because one of my professors is being published on this very issue and let’s be serious, he’s smarter than I am. Let’s hope if he ever finds this blog that I did his classes justice.
I didn’t heavily follow the Casey Anthony trial. I wasn’t at Jeremy status where I was completely out of the loop, but I knew enough. For various reasons, I couldn’t watch the trial live and was content to receive updates through Twitter. I was in a meeting with my supervisor, conveniently about to begin another lesson on how to effectively utilize Twitter and explore Tweetdeck, when that application blew up with the Casey Anthony verdict.
Needless to say, most people were shocked when the verdict was read.
I owe that to all the law classes I’ve taken. My personal belief on Casey Anthony’s guilt aside, people seem to be forgetting the idea that not guilty does not mean innocent.
Our legal/criminal justice system is an extremely interesting one. (At least, to me. But I already told you, I’m a hopeless law nerd.) Our system is labeled as an adversarial process, meaning that the two sides act in opposition to another, not to prove one right and the other wrong, but to aide the other parties in discovering the truth.
The legal standard utilized in criminal cases is that of beyond a reasonable doubt, which means that if the prosecution can’t produce a case that doesn’t cause a reasonable individual to doubt or question some part of it, the jury is obligated to find that individual not guilty. (That in and of itself is ridiculous. How do you even begin to define reasonable doubt?) The defense doesn’t have to prove the prosecution wrong, they just need to punch enough holes in the other side – in essence, creating/identifying/producing that reasonable doubt.
Not guilty doesn’t mean innocent. It just means some variation of the prosecution not doing as great a job as they could have or not having enough evidence, witnesses, etc. to eliminate the principle of reasonable doubt.
I came across an interesting article, where the prosecutor and a brave alternate juror spoke out about the case (Note: the article has been updated to include other juror input, through which they make the same clarification that not guilty doesn’t mean they found her innocent.) While surprised by the verdict, even the prosecutor agreed the greatest obstacle was the lack of a cause of death. That’s enough to punch a hole in any case, let alone one constructed on what’s been deemed circumstantial evidence.
I’m fascinated by this entire process. Part of the reason I can’t pick a research topic is because I want to know everything about this damned, crazy system.
Regardless of the outcome or my feelings about it (of which, I’m not sure I have any, really) I respect the jurors. While I’m still a little hesitant about just over ten hours of deliberation for a six-week case, they proved to abide by the responsibility they were given: to determine if Casey Anthony was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
I can empathize with them for all the time I’ve spent on Lehigh’s conduct board. I’m aware some of the decisions I’ve made have cost me some relationships, but at the end of the day, it’s a price I paid. What makes it even more difficult is to remain silent. To not be able to defend yourself, to explain your actions or to address rumors that result from the case you’re on. I’ve left cases where individuals appeared to get a slap on the wrist in comparison to what they were charged with. The rumor mill at its finest can exacerbate some of this, but there have been a handful of cases where I’ve left sick to my stomach about everything involved.
We won’t know what went on during the jury’s deliberations, but it shouldn’t matter. They made their decision, the same way the media and public made theirs.
Casey Anthony was tried in two courts: the traditional and the court of public opinion.
The traditional found her not guilty, the court of public opinion said otherwise. And in some ways, the latter may be more damaging.
She’ll always be labeled as a child murderer. She’s leaving prison, but she’ll enter social isolation. It’s hard to imagine her forming relationships, much less maintaining those with her family. I can only imagine what would become of her apparent desire to have more children, whether biological or adopted.
But the media that crucified her will be the same ones to save her. She’ll undoubtedly earn money from books, public appearances, etc. I’d encourage you all to read Jeremy’s post from yesterday. Think about the message this type of behavior sends. We identify this woman as a murderer, but we’ll continue to financially support her through this morbid curiosity we have.
Wouldn’t our time and attention be better focused elsewhere?