Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Casey Anthony Decision

Casey Anthony, the young woman accused of killing her 2 year old daughter and disposing of the body by placing it in a bag and throwing it in a swamp, was acquitted this week of all charges except lying to the police. The trial had been covered on live TV and was very widely followed. Prior to the jury’s decision the vast majority of so-called experts and pundits commenting on the various news programs seemed to agree that she would be convicted -not of first degree murder but of one of the lesser included offenses (2nd degree murder, manslaughter and/or child abuse). Everyone I spoke with about the case shared the underlying opinion the Casey was definitely responsible for her child’s death, of lying about it, and of callously disposing of the body like so much trash. Most people I talked with seemed to favor either the death penalty or a very long jail sentence.

For my own part, I believed, and still believe, that Casey Anthony callously killed that cute little girl and that no sentence is harsh enough for a mother that would do that. I was sincerely hoping she would get the maximum sentence for whatever charges she was convicted of.

The jury stunned everyone by finding her not guilty of any of the serious charges. The public reaction has been universal outrage and disappointment. I have already read several opinion pieces discussing the flaws in the jury and justice system. One piece I read this morning went so far as to call for abandoning the jury system and placing the decision making exclusively in the hands of a judge. Another wanted to adopt of tribunal system similar to what they have in France (yes, France). Still another felt that the problem with our system was the presumption of innocence that dictated the handling of the case and the presentation of the evidence.

As mush as the decision of the jury in this case surprised me and as disappointed as I am that this selfish, self-centered, sociopathic liar is not being held to full account for her actions, there is a part of me that is actually glad because the system worked. Our justice system is based on protecting our rights as individuals and assumes that we are innocent until the state can prove, beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt, that we are guilty of whatever crime we may be accused of. The expression that says “it is better to let 10 guilty people go free than to convict one innocent person” is something I agree with wholeheartedly. Casey Anthony was one of the 10 -and as hard as it is to accept on an individual basis, the system worked and I am actually glad of it.

Casey had a fair trial. The state had the opportunity to present its evidence, which in this case was just not enough to go beyond the requirement of “beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt”. That is a good thing. That means our system still serves to protect us from over zealous, inept or politically motivated prosecution. That concept is so important that if it means occasionally letting some truly evil person (as I believe Casey Anthony is) get off, that is just the way it has to be.

In this case the important facts are simple. We just do not know how the baby died. Was she given chloroform and smothered using duct tape -or was it an accidental droning? Who did it? Who was present at the time? We simply do not know and the prosecution never presented one hard piece of evidence telling us exactly what happened. The circumstances easily allow us to know, in our hearts, that Casey is responsible but is supposition enough to take a person’s life (or freedom for the rest of their life)? No, it is not

It is hard to see a person like Casey Anthony walk, but it is better to see her go free than for us to convict and possibly execute a person for something they did not do.

Live Long and Prosper....

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