Just as thousands of other Americans did, I watched the State of Florida’s trial against Casey Marie Anthony from start to finish. It was the highest profile trial in my lifetime – or, at least within the span of my memory. When I couldn’t be home to watch it live, I listened to it on the radio at work and then watched the highlights on the news at night.
We all wanted justice for the two-year-old Caylee, who was allegedly murdered by her own mother. And after watching the State’s case I, along with two-thirds of the nation, felt that Casey was guilty of murder in the first degree. The defense’s seeming lack of any coherent strategy (except grasp at all straws) convinced me further of Casey’s guilt.
And then, as we all sat around the TV, the verdict came in after only 10 hours of deliberation: Not Guilty. In fact, it was Not Guilty for all three of the most serious charges, those concerning the death of Caylee. Casey was, of course, found guilty in four counts of lying to police…That was something not even the defense contested. But the three years she has spent in ‘protective custody’ as both sides built their case for the trial have been deemed sufficient as “time served” and Casey will walk “free” in a week (though with so much attention from the media and the public, one could argue as to how free she will be).
Well all know the details (or at least think we do), so I won’t continue to re-hash them out here. But I do want to quickly address the reaction to the jury’s verdict.
First, as I said, I was convinced that she killed her daughter so that she could have the young, carefree lifestyle that she never had because she got pregnant at such a young age. I didn’t buy the defense’s claim that the 31 days of tattoos, clubbing and drinking were some type of mental reaction to block out the reality that her daughter was missing (or if you believe Jose Baez – to block out the reality that her own father covered up a drowning accident).
For me, the most damning pieces of evidence were the computer searches (“chlorophorm” “neck breaking” etc), the “Beautiful Life” tattoo she got after Caylee’s disappearance, and the “Timer55” password for her Myspace account (55 was the number of days between the day Caylee went missing and Caylee’s birthday, the day when the rest of the family would demand to see her. So, “Timer55,” the prosecution stated, was just that, a timer counting the days Casey had free to live her life.)
However, the 12 members of the Jury did not feel that the State of Florida proved Casey’s guilt to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt and thus rendered a verdict of Not Guilty. At first I was really upset, but I’ve since had time to think about it a little.
All of the evidence that the prosecution had was circumstantial. None of it could actually PROVE that Casey murdered Caylee. Okay, so she searched for “neck breaking” and she changed her password to “Timer55” and some people said her car smelled like a dead body. Does any one of those prove that she killed her daughter? No.
However, if you do like Linda Drane Burdick suggested and look at all of the evidence together (looking over the fact that each piece on its own was circumstantial), it all fit together, and it could not be just one huge coincidence that all of it pointed to Casey. But, in a capital case like this one, where a life hangs in the balance (the State was pushing for the death penalty), those 12 jurors (who are ordinary people like you and me) were not willing to hand out a death sentence based on “common sense” – and without a single piece of “hard evidence” (though the lack of scientific evidence is probably because the body rotted for six months before it was found).
I cannot say that I blame the jury. The death penalty, or even life in prison without parole, is something huge to dole out. And I’ve heard plenty of people make comments like “Fry her!” or “I wish I was on that jury!” And I’m sure I’ve made a comment or two. But, we weren’t on that jury. And the thing to remember is this: while we feel that we “know” the evidence, and no matter how closely we followed the case – no matter how many pundits we listened to or articles we read – we all had our lives to lead. We had lunch, went to work, cleaned the house. Those 12 jurors paid more attention to that case and had more access to all of the evidence than any of us. If anyone besides Ashton or Baez was qualified to decided Casey’s fate based on the evidence, it was that jury. Being an “armchair juror” like we all were is not sufficient.
One of the jurors has finally spoken out and said that not a single juror felt that Casey was innocent. But that doesn’t matter. In our judicial system, her innocence is not on trial. Her guilt is. And the jurors felt that there was not sufficient evidence to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, to prove her guilt. In that sense, being “innocent” and being “not guilty” aren’t exactly the same thing.
Of course, you could ask, What is “reasonable” doubt? The law doesn’t say “beyond any doubt.”
So, we can all have our own opinions and ‘judge’ Casey and now the 12 jurors. We can update our Facebook statuses all we want and tell the world that we think Casey should be executed and how. But it’s only because our opinions don’t really matter. If we really had the fate, the life, of another human being in our hands; if we were sat down and told that our vote would kill or set free someone, it would be a different story.
I still believe that a guilty woman will be set free this Sunday. But that’s our judicial system. It’s obviously not perfect, but I guess it’s the most perfect that we’ve come up with yet. I do believe it made a mistake this time – but then again, that’s just what I believe – I can’t prove it.
We need to do what both the defense and prosecution did: move on. This is not the only case (even though the media, in its hype and vulture-ific orgy of frenzy has made it seem that way). There are plenty of other “bad guys” out there to catch, more child murderers to prosecute.
And while I’m sick to think of Casey profiting off of this, I have to sit back and think: What if she really didn’t do it? Then, the jurors just saved an innocent life.
But, if we’re talking about the truth – all of this fervor will die down pretty soon after Casey’s release. That’s because America’s collective attention span is that of a two-year-old’s. The iPhone5 will come out and we’ll forget that Casey Anthony ever existed.