The Anthony Verdict in Perspective

Anthony VerdictCasey Anthony was acquitted today of both murder and manslaughter charges, thus concluding the highly publicized and emotionally charged trial concerning the death of her 2-year old daughter. This outcome is both outrageous and satisfying.

The outrage is pretty easy to understand judging by most any social media feed.  People all over Facebook and Twitter feel young Caylee Marie Anthony was not properly avenged because now no one will be held accountable for the atrocities she endured.  Further, the popular perception was that the conviction of Caylee’s mom was a slam dunk.  That’s certainly how the media portrayed it. And it was certainly my personal expectation as well.  From the news reports and analysis I wasn’t certain they’d get a Murder 1 conviction, but manslaughter seemed a sure thing.  In this respect, there’s a feeling that a guilty person is walking away.

But maybe in its own curious way, this can be viewed as a satisfying outcome.  By all accounts, it seems the justice system worked the way it should.  The difficult thing to keep in mind is that “the way it should” isn’t the same thing as “the way I wanted”.

Anthony was convicted in the court of public opinion long before the trial started.  Despite this, and all the TV cameras rolling in the courtroom, a jury of her peers deliberated the evidence presented and unanimously decided there was reasonable doubt.  That was not the easy decision.  It certainly wasn’t the popular or expected decision.  However, our judicial system is founded on the idea that 1000 guilty people should go free rather than a single innocent person be convicted.  Doubt, any doubt, about the certainty of guilt, is supposed to be a reason for acquittal.

Keep in mind, this was not a celebrity trial.  Anthony didn’t buy a dream team of lawyers, and she didn’t get off on any legal technicality.  She didn’t prey on the emotions of the jury because of her stardom; she had none. Instead, she came off cold, aloof, and decidedly unsympathetic.

Still, with all that against her, 12 people unanimously decided there was reasonable doubt.  Please pause and give that word its due weight.  Unanimously.  This was not a case where one or two bleeding hearts couldn’t be persuaded.  They all agreed.  Furthermore, they agreed to bear the probable scorn of those who had convicted her from their living rooms.  They agreed to go home and face their family and friends, and explain ad nauseum, why they did what they did.  They agreed to not take the easy way out.

And this, whether you like the outcome or not, is how our system is supposed to work. It’s not about vengeance or spleen venting.  It’s not about emotion or empathy.  It’s not about popular opinion.  It’s about truth and justice… the American way.

12 thoughts on “The Anthony Verdict in Perspective

  1. This is the most reasoned, well thought-out commentary on today’s events that I’ve seen. Thanks, Tim, for the sane perspective.

  2. I completely agree. If the prosecutor did not have enough evidence, he never should have brought it to trial. Now, O.J. Simpson, on the other hand…

  3. And it’s about things the jury didn’t get to hear. I wonder after they’re not hold up in there, and can hear the things everyone else got to hear, how they’ll feel. There are many trials where people come out and say “if we’d heard xxx, I’d have thought differently. I think they got hung up on not having a real cause of death to hang their thoughts on. It’s sad. Having said that, I cannot watch any of the coverage on it, and I most certainly will not spend one dime on whatever books, etc will come out and make that woman a multi-millionaire, which is very likely to happen. Watched the verdict, saw her smiling, and was done. Yes, I’m sure she’s happy she’s not going to prison for the rest of her life, but if she were really “not guilty” she’d at least still be mourning the little girl and save her celebration for when she’s alone.

  4. I just wanted to chime in and say that I’m really happy with the quality of this analysis.

    I honestly believe it’s time to implement media regulations to curtail the kind of wall-to-wall trials-by-media that have resulted from the rise of scandal-hungry 24-hour news networks.

    Since I never waste my time on murder and kidnapping trials of no national significance, I am blissfully ignorant of the whole Anthony affair, but it seems that the evidence available to the media was more incriminating than the evidence the prosecution was allowed to enter.

    So it goes. Fair trials sometimes allow the guilty to go free. This type of result always outrages a public made bloodthirsty by the Nancy Graces of the world. When the innocent are jailed however, emotions never seem to run as hot or passionate.

    It’s a shame that Americans have become so vengeful and punitive. The schools barely teach civics these days, and I’m afraid that concepts like a “reasonable doubt” and “innocent until proven guilty” don’t matter to Americans much any more.

    I always say that if you told a group of Americans that there was a 50/50 chance that a man in their community was guilty of a terrible crime and, knowing only that, they could make the call to have him put in jail or set free, most would choose to jail him even though, by the standards of our justice system, he should be freed with only a one percent chance of innocence. Your line, “our judicial system is founded on the idea that 1000 guilty people should go free rather than a single innocent person be convicted” reminded me of that, and I’m grateful you’ve expressed that concept publicly.

  5. Best quote in the thread “Other times I watch FNC and want to stab myself in the heart” too funny.

  6. The media made it look like she is guilty. Well written article but there are still going to be those who think she should face the death penalty.

  7. I really disagree. I’ve been following the trial since early on and I think the evidence clearly indicates guilt on her part.

    The justice system failed the victim in this case.

  8. I lived with someone who watched this 24/7 and just walking in and out of the trial, I knew there was not a first degree case and all along I felt there was reasonable doubt. When we think of the sentences that are handed out for manslaughter, esp in DWI cases, most first timers get shock time or 18 months. If she were convicted of manslaughter, she would probably still be free with time served.

  9. at least it showed that an accused can get a “not guilty” even without a million-dollar lawyer. That in itself is refreshing!

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