Unless you’ve made your residence under a local boulder, you’ve probably been following at least some of the drama surrounding the Casey Anthony murder trial. The 23-year-old single mother was arrested in connection with the 2008 death of her daughter, Caylee.
After three years of investigation and one of the most media-saturated trials since O.J. Simpson’s, Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter. Although she was acquitted of the murder charges, she was still found guilty of providing false information to police investigators and sentenced to one year and $1,000 for each of four misdemeanor counts.
Shock and outrage spread across the country from social media to cable news as crowds outside the courthouse carried signs reading, “Justice for Caylee.” Jurors are reportedly being harassed over the acquittal, some even having their lives threatened.
It is hard to accept a verdict like this when the victim is an adult and nearly impossible when a young child is involved. But people need to remember the legal process in America is neither perfect nor infallible. Prosecuting and convicting someone in a case like this is strongly dependent on the nature of the crime as revealed by the evidence and testimony presented in open court.
As they listen to both sides of a case, jurors are expected to be as objective as possible. During deliberations, they are instructed to consider each charge and whether the facts presented justify sending someone to death row.
A jury deliberating on a capital crime has difficult and emotionally challenging job. Blaming them for following the instructions given them by the judge is unreasonable and unfair. Keep in mind that “not guilty” does not mean the same thing as “innocent.” It simply means that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a conviction on the charges presented.
Some experts argue that the prosecution rushed to conclusions by arresting Casey Anthony, instead of waiting until they had enough evidence to make a stronger case. Others believe any hope of a conviction was lost in this case because the death penalty was on the table.
In such a situation, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The state must convince the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant perpetrated the murder as described and present the proper evidence to support the details of the argument.
Guilty or not, from the beginning Casey Anthony faced a trial and conviction in the media. Fortunately, the armchair quarterbacks on the cable news channels are not the ones in the jury box.
For many parents who followed this trial, there is no question of Anthony’s guilt. Others are convinced the child’s death was a terrible accident, covered up by a selfish and dysfunctional family desperate to dodge responsibility.
Sentenced to four years in prison for the misdemeanor counts. With time served and good behavior credit applied Casey Anthony will re-enter society on Sunday, July 17th as a free woman. Sadly, the truth of what happened to little Caylee may never see the light of day.
Whether the outcome of this trial could be called “justice” is something that will be debated for years. Ultimately, it is the job of the defense attorney to get an acquittal, or to negotiate for a minimal charge, not prove the client’s innocence.
Though the words do not appear in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, America’s legal practitioners have always tried to follow the age-old, democratic concept of innocent until proven guilty. Given how the modern system operates, however, perhaps the over-quoted legal maxim should be changed to read, “Innocent until proven not guilty.”
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown. Read more online at www.deerinheadlines.com.