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beyond a reasonable doubt

When Casey Anthony was arrested, like any other American citizen facing any criminal charge, she had the right to an attorney, and the right to stay silent.  This Fifth Amendment Right exists because, ordinary folks like you and I need help maneuvering through government systems that are bigger and more powerful than little ole’ us.  We could inadvertently incriminate ourselves by talking to the police, even when we’re innocent.

In the Casey Anthony case, so much of what she has already said will come back to haunt her and her defense counsel.  Everything she has said will have great impact when the State of Florida has it’s say in trial.  A good defense attorney will try to find a way to have prior statements thrown out of the trial for any number of reasons, not the least of which, because they are incriminating.  But sometimes the statements were given under duress, sometimes confessions are dragged out of suspects after hours of intense interrogation.  There are times when it’s only just that statements get thrown out.

Defense attorneys help us help ourselves against saying something that could incriminate us later on.  When a person is charged with a crime, or thinks they are going to be charged with a crime, or if they have committed a crime, you will hear lawyers say: Do not talk!

At trial, the State of Florida has the burden of proof; they must obtain a unanimous decision from 12 jurors that the defendant is guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the burden in criminal cases.  In civil cases, the burden is different.  In civil court, a person is deemed culpable if the standard of “by a preponderance of the evidence” is met.

In criminal cases, the defense cannot prove “innocence”.  The Defense need only sit back and watch the State’s case unfold to determine it they met the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it’s a tough standard because you are dealing with jurors who are only human, so the defense will want to make sure they upset the State’s case by picking apart their work on the case, and the evidence.  Defense attorneys look for the weaknesses, looking to see sensitivities in the underbelly of the State’s case to cast doubt on as many different aspects as possible.

I was a juror on a criminal case, quite a while ago.  It was a case in which a defendant was charged with revealing himself in public to a young girl, she was about 12 at the time.  The defendant lived near the young girl who said this disgusting man did often reveal himself to her – targeting her in particular.

During the trial, the State did a good job bringing forward their witnesses, who claimed to also have seen this defendant lurking around the area, and even had seen this young girl run from this man.  Effective evidence, I recall.

The Defense never cross-examined the young girl, who by the way, could not identify the defendant in the courtroom.  The defendant had completely changed his hair, grew a mustache, and was much heavier than when the crime had been committed.  He looked completely different and the young girl didn’t recognize him.  The Defense attorney used that fact to the jury in his closing arguments. But, we, the jury, knew better.  We were shown how the Defendant used to look and understood that it would be difficult for anyone to identify him now.

The reasonable doubt in this case?  Well, the defense brought in pictures of a gentleman from the same neighborhood who closely matched the description of the defendant – the way he “used” to look.  The Defense counselor told the jury that the witnesses could have seen the man in the pictures, not his client.

The problem we had, however, the man in the picture was never produced as a witness.  We never heard from him at trial.  We had only his picture.  Now, one woman on the jury thought that was reasonable doubt – because it “could” have been the man in the picture, since he so resembled the defendant, and since the young girl did not recognize the Defendant, perhaps it WAS the guy in the picture who did this.

Well, this woman – the lone holdout on the jury, didn’t hold out for long once she listened to the other members of the jury explain why they thought the Defendant was guilty.  She very quickly changed her mind.

So, that reasonable doubt was not in the least bit reasonable to my jury.

Needless to say, I remember thinking, “Boy, this Defense attorney must think we’re pretty stupid!”

Would you be surprised if the jurors in the Casey Anthony case feel the same?

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