Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Why I'm Not Outraged at the Casey Anthony Verdict

When you're an attorney, especially if you do criminal law, people are always asking you: "what do you think of the [insert name of latest high profile defendant here] trial?" It's been especially intense for some reason during this latest blockbuster trial, that of Casey Anthony, who was charged with killing her daughter Caylee. The question is often followed up with "you can't possibly think she's innocent, can you?"

 My answer, as always, is: I have no idea. I haven't heard any of the evidence.  I've seen trials, then seen coverage of those same trials.   And I know for sure that, if your only knowledge of the case is what you've seen on TV or read in the paper, you haven't heard all the evidence. It's impossible. Trials go on for days, sometimes weeks, and what you see in the mass media is a thirty second, at most, glimpse of what went on. Unfortunately, those tidbits you're fed are  picked by someone who's looking, not for the most important facts, but for the most dramatic or sensational ones. 

The media are not interested in justice; they're interested in eyeballs on the page or screen. For that reason, frankly, they often do  a piss-poor job of  covering criminal trials. Reporters  make up their minds early on, construct a narrative around their preconceptions, and the decision on what to tell you is invariably bent around that narrative. And they've all apparently decided that "guilty! guilty!  guilty!" is the narrative most likely to sell, unless a case falls so completely to pieces and starts to stink so bad  they can't ignore the stench  any longer. 

 I'm not just talking about Nancy Grace, who's only the most egregious example. Court coverage in general is abysmal, and I haven't seen any yet that even bothers to give lip service to the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." 

 This is why I never follow the latest "trial of the century." I know I'm not getting all the information I need to make a decision. I'm getting only those parts of the story that some reporter thinks will get tongues wagging around the water cooler the next day so you'll come back that evening and watch some more.  

The only people who heard all the facts in that case are the people in that courtroom. What they found important may have been light-years removed from what some reporter or paid "legal expert" on the news found important  enough to tell you. So none of us are in a position to be screaming that the jurors were stupid or that justice was not done. That's why I'm not outraged that Casey Anthony was acquitted, because I can't decide on whether she killed her daughter or not based on what's on TV. 


Spanish Inquisitor said...

Add to the fact that the system of jurisprudence we have here in the US, while not perfect, is designed to allow the occasional guilty person to go free in order to prevent a miscarriage of justice for an innocent person. If we relax that standard, we'll have all sorts of problems more significant than "Gee, Casey Anthony got away with murder."

The jury has decided. Let's not hash and rehash their decision to death. On with the next "trial of the century". ;)

Mark Terry said...

I'm not an attorney, but I felt the same way. The only thing I know about the trial is what I'm seeing for 30 seconds or so on the ABC evening news. Period. I don't know the details of the case. I've seen tidbits of forensic testimony that tells me - and although I'm not an expert on forensic lab work, I'm an expert on lab work, so I know that a 10 second sound bite about the details of lab work is meaningless in the broader scope of things.

I wasn't on the jury. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of horrible child-killing cases in this country every year (or month or week, for all I can guess) and I'm not sure what makes this one so special other than it's media coverage. They're all fucking tragedies.

Judy Bobalik said...

The only thing i found interesting was that Casey was not found guilty of child abuse by the mere fact she didn't report her daughter missing for a month.

Anonymous said...

In Florida they have a law which allows all the evidence to be released to the public. Also, every second of the trial was televised. Not the same thing as only getting thirty second clips in the media.

JD Rhoades said...

salvetokarma: right, but how many of the people who are outraged have actually read or seen all that?

JD Rhoades said...

Judy: a lot depends on how the crime is described in the statute and which acts were allege din the indictment. Words are important.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dusty. I'm aware of most of what you say here, but it's always in need of reinforcement by people who know whereof they speak.

Unknown said...

What is the point of having a justice system if everyone wants to go against it in mob mentality. People are supposed to be INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty in a COURT of law. When a jury says someone is innocent the person should be treated as such!

J. E. Medrick said...

Maybe you'll like this.


YA: Cheat, Liar, Coward, Thief
Adult: Shackled