Casey Anthony

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I didn’t actively follow the Casey Anthony investigation or trial, although I did read or hear about it from time to time. Now the verdict’s in, I have a couple of thoughts.

The verdict(s)

I gather from today’s comments from juror #3 that the jury was in agony about not being able to convict Ms Anthony, but they did their duty and judged — correctly, as far as I can see — that the prosecution failed to make its case for capital murder. Hard to convict on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt when you don’t know how the victim died, or when, or where. See Alan Dershowitz’s essay and Robert T Miller’s comment on it.

It’s not so clear to me why the jury also failed to convict on one of the lesser charges that were available to them, including manslaughter. My guess is they just couldn’t make up their minds about what happened at all. Not inevitable, but perhaps not too surprising.

I’ve read somewhere a suggestion that juries today have higher standards for forensic evidence due to watching television shows in which crime scene investigators solve murders with fibers from carpets and DNA. It’s an interesting idea but I am skeptical.

I do want to remind my readers (both of you) that the jury had only two options: guilty, or not guilty. “Innocent” is not one of the possible verdicts and certainly doesn’t apply here. I don’t know whether Ms Anthony murdered her daughter (say, with chloroform, or by strangulation) or whether the little girl’s death was an accident. Either way, Casey Anthony is definitely not innocent.

The prosecution

After the verdict the lead prosecutor said to the press that he was “disappointed” in the verdict. I’m disappointed in the prosecution, and not least for that comment on the verdict. The prosecution gets to make its case in court and then it’s up to the jury. I don’t believe that prosecutors should ever express “disappointment” in a verdict, no matter how outrageous. The prosecutors failed to make their case and the jury rightly said so. I don’t even think the prosecution should express disappointment in its own job, since there’s no way to do that without implicitly criticizing the jury. Prosecutors do their job in the courtroom, and then they ought to shut up. Like former presidents.

I was further outraged when Marcia Clark (prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial) wrote an editorial expressing her opinion that this verdict was even worse (i.e. even more outrageously wrong) than the verdict in the Simpson case. Wrong. There, too, the prosecution screwed up.

The prosecution had some pretty lousy evidence to work with. They should have realized this and tailored the charges and their presentation of the evidence in a more modest fashion. The trick of going for a death-qualified jury, in order to get law and order folks on the jury, seems to me to have backfired, as it should have.

The defense

His client was acquitted on the main charges; ipso facto, defense attorney Jose Baez did a good job, even if, to us on the sidelines, he seemed to be ad libbing all the way through. I saw part of his closing argument, and it was definitely not ad libbed, indeed, I thought that was I saw was pretty effective. He went through point after point and showed that there were unanswered questions.

The press

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If your default attitude towards the mainstream press isn’t contempt, you’re not paying attention. The press did its usual despicable, horrible job here.

There was no reason whatever that this case should have become a big news story. That it did become a big news story apparently can be laid in large part at the door of somebody named Nancy Grace. I don’t know much about Ms Grace but the little I know makes me pretty angry. See Professor Stephen Bainbridge’s remarks for details. Anyway, Nancy Grace aside, why did the press cover this trial the way it did? The press routinely talks about the “public’s right to know.” The purposes of justice should, in my view, trump the right of the public to know something that it has absolutely no need to know. This wasn’t a government leak pertaining to public matters about which it is important for citizens to have an opinion. The only people who benefitted from the press brouhaha were the members of the press, who sold air time and papers and interviews. My life and yours would in no way have been diminished if we had had to wait until this week to hear the details of the trial. And the cause of justice — for Ms Anthony and also for Caylee and most important for the People of Florida — would have been better served.

Now Ms Anthony is a celebrity. There’s talk about her writing  a book, being on television, or in a movie. This trial may make her rich. If this happens, the first people to express their shock and outrage will be the members of the press who bestowed a market value on Ms Anthony in the first place.


P.S. Allahpundit at Hot Air asks an interesting question: “Wasn’t Anthony’s biggest asset in the trial the fact that she was sui generis as a defendant?” (It’s in the fourth paragraph of the article.) He explains that juries have in their heads a “template” for various crimes, including child murder, and that they rely on the template to help them understand something that is otherwise beyond understanding. But, he says, Casey Anthony fit no template. “Even the bad moms strain to look like good moms — but not Casey…. How can you rule an accident in or out when you’re grappling with behavior that would be unfathomable even to other child murderers?” Good question.

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