Heads are still exploding following the breathless announcement Monday that a jury of 12 had found the accused killer, and mother, of a 2-year-old child in Florida “not guilty” on charges of murder, manslaughter and child abuse (though guilty of a lesser charge of lying to police).
Duct tape and childish paper hearts had been applied to the skeletal remains of the victim, which were eventually discovered, ripped apart by animal scavengers, in woods near the family McMansion. Her remains were discovered months after a highly publicized and, from the mother, intentionally misdirected search for a bogus kidnapping by a nonexistent Latina bogey-woman. As the investigation into the “kidnapping” and then homicide continued, it became clear that in the days, weeks and months following the death of little Caylee, the surgically augmented mother appeared in Florida’s industrial staple of “hot body” contests while peddling watered-down drinks at area drinking holes.
The physical evidence had been seriously and obviously degraded. We can blame the “CSI Effect,” but the fact is that juries must reasonably and constitutionally demand a high burden of proof for felonies. We cannot blame the jury of 12 for the decision that they reached. The horror that we have is based on the behavior of the mother – before and after the death of her daughter.
Nevada is still in the running competition with Florida for the most ghastly and horrendous crimes and public policies victimizing children and families. Instead of looking at the victims, or, God forbid, ourselves, we dump scathing opprobrium on the working-class products of a media culture that celebrates “Girls Gone Wild” and pay-for-play hedonism. Dance while you can, young ones, because we have no use for you when you’re older.
Every court case, large or small, is a mirror to America. Both the crimes routinely committed in our country and our criminal justice system, deformed and inefficient, is a reflection of our culture, values and who we are. I’m not blaming America for the death of Caylee, or the jury for finding her mother not guilty, or even the self-righteous mobs demanding some sort of extra-judicial punishment for everyone involved. I am reminded of musician Billy Bragg’s admonishment, in a very different situation, to the person caught in a judicial nightmare, an admonishment that is a warning to us all: “This isn’t a court of justice, son. This is a court of law.”Tweet