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.