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Legal

Casey, Caylee and We

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.”

Discussion

14 Responses to “Casey, Caylee and We”

  1. The jury was looking for ALL reasonable doubt NOT reasonable doubt on each & every charge & obiviously didn’t give much leeway. A guilty vote on any of the first three counts could have brought in a death verdict. District attorney shouldn’t have placed it on the table in my opinion on a first offense (albeit a whopper)! I think the jury felt choiceless _ death or misdemeanor _ very little in between!

    Posted by Lila K Davis | July 6, 2011, 2:46 pm
    • I believe only 1st degree murder carries the death penalty in Florida. Her other charges were aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter.
      Do Florida juries reach the question of death in the same trial? Is there a separate trial for the death sentence?

      Posted by Shaun | July 7, 2011, 8:24 am
      • I was surprised to read right now that aggravated child abuse can be a death penalty crime in Florida. Hmmm.

        Posted by Shaun Mollica | July 7, 2011, 8:52 am
        • That’s insanity. Don’t get me wrong, people who abuse children deserve the worst. But time and time again we’ve proven innocence after it was too late. Plus capital punishment prosecutions costs much more (and wind up losing more often).

          Time to abolish the death penalty. 8th Amendment folks.

          Posted by Justin McAffee | July 7, 2011, 9:46 am
  2. Defense attorney Cheney Mason’s folksy closer, styled after Atticus Finch,re-educated the jury on “reasonable doubt” and convinced me that the tragically defiled remains did not contain enough evidence to convict anyone. There’s no point in blaming the jury and certainly not the defense for a rational conclusion. The prosecution’s overreach in asking for the death penalty may have hindered their case and reinforces my lifelong opposition to capital punishment.

    Posted by Teresa Crawford | July 6, 2011, 1:50 pm
  3. Have to agree with Justin and others – she is highly likely guilty, but it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I was thinking guilty all the way until I heard the defense’s closing and it swayed me to not guilty by the standards of the court.

    Posted by Rob Mrowka | July 6, 2011, 1:09 pm
  4. Thought many people were shocked and quite upset at the verdict I have to point out, much as was written, that under the court of law, there must be “beyond reasonable doubt.” With the mass public pressure, I’m sure it was not easy as a juror to come up with “not guilty.” Yet they did. I, like many others, construct my bias from the slanted and loaded information given to me by the mass media. I was not in the court room and I did not hear all the evidence. I’m in no position to make that judgement of Casey Anthony but like you said, it’s not a court of justice, it’s a court of law.

    Posted by K | July 6, 2011, 12:53 pm
  5. First, I was stunned to hear the verdict – I thought the jury would sink her.

    Second, I don’t believe the jury felt sorry for her. I think they did their job as outlined by the laws of the state of Florida as they were instructed to.

    Finally, I thought her behavior and that of her defense team was telling and unprofessional. As the verdicts were being announced it looked like it was all Anthony could do to hold back a smile (in between her sobs). I suppose I can forgive her for that; it’s probably a natural reaction, but the defense team won’t get off so easily with me.

    As soon as the jury was excused, they hugged and kissed and back slapped one another, laughing, smiling, and reading each other’s blackberry congratulatory messages. Anthony’s family and prosecutors were still in the courtroom. So were the television cameras.

    The defense team was keenly aware of the cameras during the trial. Somehow, I guess they forgot they were there once the verdict was read.

    I think they should have saved their celebration for later. It was unprofessional, insensitive and more than a little creepy considering that most of America was thinking they just let a murderer go free.

    Posted by Uhave2laff | July 6, 2011, 12:14 pm
  6. I have to agree. If this were a civil trial, I think the preponderance of the evidence suggests she’s culpable. But beyond reasonable doubt? Not so sure. The fact that people are so mad about this is perhaps a poor reflection of present public comprehension of law and logic for that matter.

    Posted by Justin McAffee | July 6, 2011, 11:25 am

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