I have been spending the past week at the beach, and I have been thinking about the Casey Anthony trial recently. Now that the initial hoopla over the not guilty verdict has somewhat calmed down, I thought I would express some of my opinions on this case.
1. Why so much interest in this case? Was the death of a 2 year old child tragic? Sure. Was it as nationally newsworthy, and more specifically, should it have drawn the attention it did? Hardly. Did you know that 22,000 children die each day, according to the World Health Organization? Not many from murder or accidental deaths, but mostly from starvation. Why doesn’t our news media spend as much time talking about those deaths as they did about Caylee Anthony?
2. Why are Americans so gullible in believing that what they see and hear from True Crime shows is in fact the truth? The American news media, and in particular “true crime” shows such as America’s Most Wanted and Nancy Grace, make tons of money sensationalizing local crimes. According to a May 2011 New York Times article on Nancy Grace, “TV Justice Thrives on Fear” Grace her crew play fast and hard with the facts:
Ms. Grace, a former prosecutor in Atlanta who was reprimanded for stepping over a line more than once, obliterates lines every night on “Nancy Grace.” Working with a contingent of experts who have all the independence of a crew of trained seals, Ms. Grace races toward judgment, heedlessly ignoring nuance and evidence on her way to finding guilt.
Nancy Grace, of course, absolutely knew that Casey Anthony was guilty, and Nancy is always right. Right? Well, not really. Again from the New York Times article:
Ms. Grace knows what she knows with a great deal of certainty, but she was wrong about the now debunked rape charges against the Duke lacrosse team, she was wrong about who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart. She taped a corrosive interview in 2006 with Melinda Duckett, whose 2-year-old son had gone missing, and Ms. Duckett killed herself the next day. Ms. Grace broadcast the interview anyway.
3. Why the hate for the jurors? There has been a lot of hate and vitriol directed at the jurors in this case. So much so, in fact, that the judge has asked the Florida legislature to pass a law protecting the privacy of jurors in highly publicized cases. The Anthony trial jurors were ordinary, working Americans, who did their civic duty by serving on this jury. They were sequestered from their families for weeks. They sat in the courtroom every day, and were not only able to listen to and see evidence, but were able to see the body language and other subtleties from participants in the case that we (who weren’t there) couldn’t see. Yet, many Americans, including the aforesaid Nancy Grace, could not accept the jury’s verdict, mainly because it contradicted their belief that Casey Anthony was guilty, regardless of the lack of evidence.
4. Lack of civics education. After the verdict, there was a huge outpouring of the old “the system doesn’t work” cry. The fact is that the legal system did work; it’s just that the vast majority of Americans, following the likes of Nancy Grace, could not accept any verdict other than guilty. The reason the system worked is simple: Casey Anthony, as a defendant accused of a crime, was entitled, per our Constitution, to a fair trial by a jury of her peers. She got that trial, and because the jurors reached a verdict, the system worked.
5. Everyone should read “To Kill A Mockingbird” a story about a defense lawyer who represents an unpopular client. I don’t know whether Casey Anthony murdered her daughter or not, and neither do you. The good news from this case is that our criminal justice system worked. Kudos go to Anthony’s lawyer, who took on a very unpopular client and did a great job defending her. The next time you hear someone bashing criminal defense lawyers, please remind them that defense lawyers are the only ones standing between you and a court of public opinion.