Saturday, July 16, 2011

Casey Anthony is Irrelevant

As disturbed as I was by the verdict in the Casey Anthony capital murder trial, I have been even more disturbed by the reactions of the public to it. I am especially concerned with some of the things that people who call themselves constitutional-conservatives have been saying in the wake of this very emotional trial.

I have heard and read statements from people ranging fromthe defense attorney’s are to blame, to we should have professional jurors, to our justice system is broken. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The system worked just the way it’s supposed to, it gave the accused the presumption of innocence and it put the burden of proving the guilt of the accused on the State, i.e. the prosecution.

The prosecutors had the choice of what to charge Casey Anthony with and they chose to charge her with First Degree- Capital Murder. They chose to seek the death penalty for a case that was largely circumstantial, with limited forensic evidence and unreliable witnesses. They made this decision even though the State of Florida has only executed 2 women previously and never a mother for killing her own child.

I am not going to retry the case here, but I am going to try to make some critical points:
  1. Not everything that the public heard, saw and read was known to the jury. They were sequestered and were often asked to leave the courtroom for discussions that the public saw on television.
  2. The jury was instructed to disregard certain things that the judge determined were inadmissible.
  3. The jury had the responsibility to decide which witnesses and which witness testimony was credible.
  4. The jury was doing their civic duty by serving on this case and taking on the huge burden of deciding not just guilt or innocence, but also life and death.
  5. The prosecution had a theory about how Caylee died, but the medical examiner never said what caused her death.
  6. Much of the forensic evidence that the prosecution used relied on new science and techniques, that had never been admitted in a Florida court before and which had not been peer reviewed.
  7. Casey Anthony was not found innocent, she was found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The two standards are not the same.
Our system is not perfect, but it is the best one around. Just ask Amanda Knox about being on trial in another country, even a “civilized” country like Italy. The presumption of innocence is what protects all of us from the power of the State (which so many people distrust these days) and separates the United States from every other nation on the planet.

There is a saying in criminal law, “It is better that ten guilty persons go free than one innocent person be imprisoned”. We can all agree that we think Casey Anthony killed Caylee Anthony and we can all disagree with the jury’s verdict. But we should not disparage the jury or the jury system; lest any of us are unfortunate enough to find ourselves accused of a crime and require the presumption of innocence.

We can dislike the tactics that Jose Baez used to get his client acquitted, but his responsibility was to provide his client with the most vigorous defense possible. He did that and he overcame the State of Florida with all its vast resources.

For those that think we should have “professional” jurors, I would say that is a terrible idea. It would give the State 12 paid arbiters of fact, in addition to the judge (the arbiter of law) and the prosecution with all the means at its disposal. What innocent person could possibly be acquitted with the deck stacked against them like that?

I understand and empathize with the anger that everyone feels towards Casey Anthony and the fact that Caylee has not gotten justice. But killing or incarcerating Casey will not bring Caylee back and the jury did not find that the prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you want to lay some blame, I suggest you blame the police officer that in July of 2009 did not want to trudge into the swamp to examine the body he was called to investigate and berated the man who had called 911. The officer was fired for his actions.

You can also blame the prosecutors for choosing to overcharge Casey Anthony and then not presenting a strong enough case to convict her. They could have filed lesser charges and probably have sent her to prison for 30 years. But they made a political decision to go for the gold and it cost the victim justice.

You might also want to look at the media. They tried this case in the court of public opinion and splashed it on the television 24/7. Ask yourself, “Why”? Would they have covered this case with the entire spectacle if the accused weren’t some pretty white girl (with pictures of her partying in skimpy outfits), with an adorable 2-year old white daughter? I think not.

And of course you can blame Casey herself for lying to her parents, brother and friends, as well as to investigators.

Casey Anthony is irrelevant. If she is guilty, she will eventually face her ultimate judgment. What is important is the rule of law, the presumption of innocence and the Constitution. If we ignore those then we become nothing more than a mob doling out revenge, not justice.  Like it or not, the system worked. Sometimes the results just are not what we would like them to be.

It is also worth noting that these constitutional rights should not be afforded to illegal enemy combatants and terrorists caught operating abroad.

The actions of Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama in circumventing Congress by holding and interrogating a Somali terrorist, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, aboard a Navy ship- without Miranda warnings- then bringing him to New York for a civilian trial is a mockery of our system of justice. He should have been transported to Guantanamo Bay detention facility for interrogation and a military commission trial.