Home > Uncategorized > Justice for Caylee? Or for Casey?

Justice for Caylee? Or for Casey?

There are, in any criminal trial, four possible outcomes. The defendant can be innocent and found not guilty, innocent and found guilty, guilty and found not guilty, or guilty and found guilty. Out of these four possibilities, only two are problematic. That would be when an innocent party is found guilty, and when a guilty party is found not guilty.

When an innocent person is found guilty, we often don’t know about it for years. When we do find out, the result is a collective sigh of Deo gratias, and an attempt to enact safeguards to prevent re-occurrences, as in the Rolando Cruz case. The real problem in these cases is the nagging thought that we don’t know how many of these cases there are. Some of us know of the Richard “Bruno” Hauptman trial, that convicted him of the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. Or of the MacDonald case, where Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of killing his wife and children, and is still in jail some forty years later. I don’t know whether those men are guilty or not, but I do know that neither of them was given a fair trial.

When a guilty party is found not guilty, however, our reaction is often colored by the nature of the offense. In some cases, we celebrate the outcome and our whole system of government changes. Witness the John Peter Zenger case, where although clearly guilty of the crime alleged, the jury returned a not guilty verdict. The result? The idea of jury nullification entered American jurisprudence, and has been used since then to acquit people of unpopular or unjust laws.

In other cases, the outcome has a polarizing effect. Remember O.J. Simpson? Or the Fuhrman trial, over the Rodney King incident? And now, most recently, the Casey Anthony trial, where people are castigating the jury, accusing it of everything from cowardice to stupidity and cupidity. So let’s take a look at what went on during the trial.

The trial lasted over a month. The prosecution had 80 witnesses for their case, some of whom testified as many as 8 different times. The State offered over 1,000 pages of evidence, in addition to the 4,000 pages and 3 CDs of evidence it released publicly before the trial. The Simpson case was the longest trial ever held in California, costing more than $20 million to fight and defend, running up 50,000 pages of trial transcript in the process. Some reports say the Casey Anthony trial far exceeded these numbers. I haven’t even mentioned the defense evidence or witnesses yet.

How many of those complaining that the verdict was incorrect have read even a tenth of the material proffered? I’d bet on none. How many watched the entire trial? None, since not all of it was broadcast. How many really listened to the experts, for either side? My guess is that most people changed the channel to “Jerry Springer” as soon as the subject turned to the technical nature of duct tape marks and residue.

Cheney Mason, one of Casey Anthony’s defense attorneys, blamed the media for the passionate hatred toward his client. He termed it a “media assassination” of Anthony before and during the trial:

“I hope that this is a lesson to those of you who have indulged in media assassination for three years, bias, and prejudice, and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be… I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don’t know a damn thing about, and don’t have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it. Now you have learned a lesson.”

I think he hit the nail on the head. We have seen, in too many cases, the press whip up a feeding frenzy, condemning a defendant long before the trial begins. Often, they are wrong. But the damage they do to the justice system is incalculable. Incomplete and misleading media coverage, often driven by the desire for ratings, leads talking heads like Nancy Grace to not report, but to advocate. Stumping for “justice for Caylee” only interferes with our ability to deliver justice to the only person we can: the defendant.

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