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July 6, 2011

16

not innocent

by Andrea O'Connell

To say the verdict in the State v. Casey Anthony is shocking is an understatement.

I am dazed, overwhelmed at this jury decision.  Are we in an alternate reality where wrong is right and right is wrong?  It seems so to me.

But, I have to accept it.

Even though Casey Anthony was found not guilty yesterday, it does not mean she is innocent of the death of her daughter.

Apparently, the jury did not have an abiding and sure belief of guilt.  And I have to accept and appreciate their decision.

But, it’s difficult to do this because I see this as a miscarriage of justice.  Then again, a worse miscarriage would be finding an defendant guilty when they are innocent.

That would be far worse, and so I’m taking that to the bank.

What went wrong?

Some Legal Eagles and Talking Heads are saying, “Well this verdict is an example that the system worked.”   I can’t quite agree with that, but I do understand that I have to accept the verdict because this is our system, and it’s the best in the world.

I think the heart of this decision boils down to the jury not wanting to have the burden of sending Casey to jail for the rest of her life.  Maybe they thought if their decision was wrong, it’s better to be wrong via an acquittal then to be wrong via finding guilt.

My belief in Casey’s guilt is abiding, and I think the jury made a decision that speaks to their fear of getting it wrong, so they erred on the side of caution.

We all believed that because the jury took only eleven hours to come to their verdict, they must have found her guilty.  I was so sure that was the case.  I can’t help wondering that this jury did not delve into the evidence because they wanted or needed to get home.

My head tells me, this jury, who are supposedly people without vendettas, without prejudice, without agendas, have made the best decision because we have trusted them to do so, and twelve of them have sacrificed two months of their individual lives to fulfill their promise.

And so, I should accept the jury’s verdict, just as Assistant State Attorney, Jeff Ashton so gracefully accepts it.  I’m struggling with this.  Really struggling.

Jeff Ashton was on the Today Show this morning.  He has accepted with grace and understanding this verdict.  Watch Jeff Ashton on the Today Show:   http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/43651905#43651905

So, what went wrong?  I never, never expected things to go this wrong.  How did it happen to go so wrong?  Were Casey Anthony’s parents partly to blame because of all the lies they told?  Did the family muddy the water just enough that the jury did not know who to believe?  Did the jurors think that the garbage in Casey’s car explained the smell of decomposition?  Did they believe Jose Baez’s claim that Caylee’s death was a tragic accident?  Did the jury sympathize with Casey and did not want her to pay with the rest of her life?  If that is the case, what about Caylee?  Were they only thinking about Casey and nothing about Caylee?

The charge must fit the crime.

Did the State of Florida overcharge Casey Anthony?

The charges, though fitting of the crime in my view, must fit the jury’s ability to grasp all of the elements of the crime.  Was the case so convoluted and muddied to such an extent by the defense, they took reasonable doubt to an even higher standard?  No cause of death. No eye witness. No CSI moments.  Just a lot of circumstantial evidence.

The death penalty and circumstantial evidence may be a hard sell for a sentence of death, or life in jail.

Did publicity hurt this case?

Scott Peterson was convicted of Capital Murder with much less evidence. That trial was not televised.  Did the TV play too big of a part in this case?  Did the transparent and liberal public records law in Florida damage the case?

I read so much of the discovery in this case, there was no doubt in my mind of who was responsible for this crime.

If the State of Florida had to do it again, would the charges start with 2nd degree murder?  I believe, though in hindsight, this would have been just since the cause of death, tragically, was ruled unknown.

Had Caylee been found the first time Roy Kronk relieve himself in those woods, it would have been a very different case, obviously.

There are many more questions than there are answers.

Theory of the Defense

I believe that Jose Baez and team floated theories that were deceiving and not at all a search for the truth.  I felt this defense team was unethical.  Do they teach trickery in law schools?

Why couldn’t the jurors see the tricks and the deception of the defense team?

I truly thought that a reasonable person should see through the smoke and mirrors and see what the defendant did to her very own child.

Why didn’t this jury at least ask themselves, “What is reasonable about not reporting a child’s absence for 31 days?”   Answer?   It is NOT reasonable!  It would never be reasonable!

Didn’t the State of Florida make it clear that this mother NEVER, for 31 days, cared one bit for her child and lied about her whereabouts?

Did the jury buy the drowning accident?  I think they must have. Didn’t they want evidence of drowning?

Was this jury just so anxious to get home?  Is that why they did not review the evidence?

What’s reasonable?

When reasonable doubt is the standard, shouldn’t the penalty be reasonable, too?

Reasonable doubt is a high standard, as it should be.  If this standard did not exist, the possibility of a Police State could easily become our governing system of justice.

To me, reason and justice are entwined.  Maybe the problem is that reason means different things to different people.   Is it as simple as knowing right from wrong?  Not exactly.

I think reasonable doubt is sometimes an unreasonable concept for people to understand.  This is the “reasonable doubt” the jurors were told to apply, as written in their jury instructions:

Whenever the words “reasonable doubt” are used you must consider the following:

A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.

Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence or the lack of evidence.

If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.

Because the definition both of “reasonable” and “doubt” are subjective, it stands to reason why the court attempts to define it in such as way as “reasonable” people can apply their own ethical thermometer to the amount (or level) of reasonable doubt they apply to the question of guilt or non-guilt.

Reasonable: 

adj.1 having sound judgment. 2 not absurd. 3a not excessive; inexpensive. b tolerable; fair.

Doubt:

n.1 uncertainty; undecided state of mind. 2 inclination to disbelieve. 3 uncertain state of things. 4 lack of full proof.  v.1 tr. feel uncertain or undecided about. 2tr. hesitate to believe or trust. 3intr. feel uncertain or undecided.  4 tr.  call in question.

My reason tells me:

  • A child in the woods whose face is covered in duct tape is wrong.
  • An accident made to look like a murder is wrong.
  • A mother not reporting her child missing is wrong.
  • A car with the smell of human decomposition means something is wrong, just as Cindy Anthony said, “There’s something wrong…”
  • A mother thinking her life is beautiful now her child is gone, is that mother’s right, but it is wrong by every ethical standard.
  • A Father molesting a daughter is wrong.  Did it happen?  There is no proof either way except a liar says it is so.

I also think that how a person’s individual definition of right and wrong plays into their understanding of reasonable doubt. What I think is wrong and what you think is wrong, may be different.

Maybe this is problematic with juries.  Maybe we need a better way to define what reasonable doubt means.  It would be good to give examples to jurors.

Or, maybe we could give potential jurors a test – if they fail this test, they cannot be jurors!

That may be prejudicial though.

How about we change laws about lawyer credentials – insist they take a test to prove that integrity and ethics are values they hold dear.

If only.

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. colleen
    Jul 7 2011

    Andrea , that is an excellent post. A couple of thoughts, maybe there should be some sort of test for the jurors, I do remember once a case where one of the jurors had a mental illness, this was making it very difficult for the jurors to debate. Regarding an ethics test for lawyers, criminal lawyers do tend to be in a different league of their own. They want to win, and sometimes that is at all costs. Publicity, is another big factor in my view. In Canada, (yes I;m Cdn.)and in the UK, there are sometimes publicity bans on trials. This causes an uproar, but the court wants to ensure the victims and protected, and the integrity of the evidence and the court system itself and maintained. The evidence is presented in court not to the public. I think these jurors were confused about the reasonalbe doubt. There really is a ton of evidence.

    Reply
  2. colleen
    Jul 7 2011

    ANd….it seems that when a parent is charged with their own child’s murder, the case is different. sentences seem lighter, if Caylee had of been someone else’s child, that was last seen with Casyee, then was found dead, there would be no question who was responsible.
    Sorry..i am still rambling here, but I am still upset and sad about the whole mess!

    Reply
    • Jul 7 2011

      Hi Colleen, If it were another case, no media, no fuss or muss, I wonder if the outcome would be totally different? I tend to think that’s true. Sad. I’m still very upset, too. I think this case is going to stick with me for a long time…. I know that’s true for so many of us…. Heartbreaking….

      Reply
  3. Jul 7 2011

    OMG..she’s getting out next Wednesday…un frigging believable!!! I have heard so much said in the last couple of days and it seems to me that the preosecution over charged this case by going for death..and the jury THOUGHT they were deliberating the death case..not the guilt or innocence..that idiot number 3 even said as much when she was interviewed by ABC!!! It is just so sickening and I simply can not believe it…I really am beginning to think that like OJ..the prosecution screwed up and should have gone for life without parole as well as hitting harder on the obstruction of justice..this girl is walking away from EVERYTHING..and you just know there are enough people out there who will be delighted to be her “friend”…she won’t be shunned..she’ll end up like OJ where people want her autograph and to take pictures with her..just seeing her so happy this morning made me want to puke..

    Reply
  4. Jul 7 2011

    A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.

    Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt

    They had an abiding sense of guilt.

    On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

    No way in hwell did they consider all of the evidence in that short of time.

    Another note: it is more lucrative for jurors after their served duty if they give a not guilty verdict in a high profile case. Sad. 😦

    Reply
  5. Jul 7 2011

    …then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

    What was the reasonable doubt? They did what HHJP said NOT to do-they considered the punishment.

    Reply
    • Jul 7 2011

      I totally agree, Sherry! They didn’t think of Caylee, in my opinion. They thought of what pretty and demure little Casey – tortured little Casey, would face if she were found guilty.

      Reply
  6. darlene
    Jul 7 2011

    Andrea, great post. In particular the part about what is and what isn’t reasonable doubt. I think you’re right in that juries should be made to either understand this or be asked a series of questions to make sure they understand it. Giving them examples would be helpful, as it’s difficult to even explain what reasonable doubt is. I think the prosecution overcharged, but I also believe this jury “under thought.” One juror said he didn’t buy the decomp in the car because the man (Simon Birch) who went with George to pick up the car said it was the trash in the trunk that was the source of the smell. Well, duh you stupid juror. Were you even paying attention? Simon testified he only said that to George at the time so as not to alarm him. He testified that he definitely smelled decomp and in his occupation had many times before, especially from a car. This proves this juror simply wasn’t paying attention and that’s quite shocking. What ELSE weren’t they paying attention to? And which other jurors were not paying attention? I’ve served on a jury so I realize how complex details can be. If they couldn’t understand ANY of the science, they could have thrown it all out and simply used their common sense about Casey’s attrocious behavior. That would have given me reasonable doubt. No proof of sexual molestation therefore THAT ridiculous explanation for her absurd behavior must also be tossed out. No evidence of drowning, so the same for that. Simply look at a child being triple bagged and thrown in a swamp with items from the Anthony household, she was the last to be seen with her, and you have a definite connection to Casey. THAT was the evidence. I’m just so alarmed that because we are living in a reality-TV based society that we “celebratize” our criminals and don’t want to punish those who entertain us. Does that make sense?

    Reply
    • Jul 7 2011

      Hi Darlene, Yes, this 24 hour coverage of this case now is like nothing I’ve ever seen! I remember the Sniper attacks of a few years ago – there was 24 hour coverage of that and I was glued to it. But this?? It makes me think the networks, especially HLN, are making the story more egregious by attempting to incite the crowds outside of the courthouse.
      This is not news to me – it’s just maddening. Jane Velez is completely annoying.

      And I agree, if the jurors had used their common sense it would have helped. Common sense was not common in this crowd. They said they didn’t want to “use emotion” to judge this case. But, I think that is EXACTLY what they did! If they had used reason and deduction and had listened to the actual evidence, it would have helped.

      Clearly, if one of them said that about Simon Birch, they did not listen to anything he said! The whole point of his testimony was to point out that he, above anyone, knows the difference between garbage and decomp. He worked in sanitation for a few years and he knows what garbage smells like! In his work in the towing business, he knows when a decaying human body has been left in a car.

      We could go on and on and on with regards to the items of evidence they obviously didn’t spend any time reviewing. It’s frustrating – beyond frustrating.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your excellent observations. 🙂

      Reply
      • darlene
        Jul 7 2011

        Andrea, I made a mistake in my comments. I said all the common sense would have given me “reasonable doubt.” What I meant was that all that common sense evidence would have made me vote for conviction! Sorry about that.
        I know we are all just so hurt, disappointed and downright furious at this jury and at this murderess liar. But what happens Wednesday when she gets out? Where does she think she can go that she’ll be safe from some Florida nut-job who will shoot her on sight? If I were her, I’d cut my hair real short, dye it a dirty shade of blonde (not platinum – too noticeable) and maybe buy some big ol’ fake glasses. Then I’d dress in long skirts, wear a floppy hat and skulk around trying to find a place to live. Oh, I’d also change my name to something hispanic to fit in in south central Florida. Something like Miranda Lopez. I’d also speak in a fake accent to confuse everybody. Hmmm, I might photoshop an example of what she may look like so we can post it online as a wanted poster. Whadda ya think?

      • Jul 7 2011

        Hi Darlene! I love the Photoshop idea! that’s hilarious…How about a WANTED imposter? Just in case someone takes it the wrong way, it would be good to add a twist of irony in the mix. love, love, love it!

  7. offthecuff
    Jul 8 2011

    You did a good job listing explanations for the jury mis-verdict. The jury is almost as shocked at our reaction to their decision as we are shocked at their decision. They just don’t get it.

    Is it fair to hold them accountable for their decision? I believe it is fair to have a just opinion. I don’t think everything that comes out of the jury room should simply be hunky-dory simply because they are “doing their job”

    I don’t believe they should be ruffed up or threatened, but this should be a lesson that jurors need to understand the parameters of their job. If that means jurors are more squeamish about being jurors, then that will make room for those who are serious.

    Reply
    • Jul 8 2011

      I think we need to hold jurors to account for their verdict before it is read in court. Jurors should give their reasons for their verdict before the judge to ensure they followed the instructions given them and that they understood reasonable doubt. In this case we would have had the jurors reconsider how they came to their decision and another reiteration of the instructions and definition of reasonable doubt.

      I just read that the alternate juror said he had doubt before deliberations. He also said he needed motive. Thing is, like an attorney said on a show I listened to last night, a juror must put all of the puzzle pieces together. There may be a few pieces missing but the picture of what it is is recognizable. That is the basis for the verdict-what picture is shown from the totality of the pieces of evidence put together.

      Another thing that would have been cleared up with juror accountability was that they were not to be concerned with the punishment as they were in the guilt phase, not the penalty phase.

      One last thing to say~ There should be a law that a defense lawyer, as well as a prosecutor, should never be able to make accusations against anyone in court that is not legally backed up.

      Reply
      • Jul 8 2011

        Sherry! Excellent comments… I completely agree. I heard a talking head today say that it would be good to have professional jurors.,,, people who understand and can judge the facts without personal prejudice.
        This jury did not do the job they were tasked with. If there was some kind of accountability, there may have been a different outcome!

    • Jul 8 2011

      Absolutely, Offthecuff.

      This is a very, very serious job for a juror. When i was a juror on a criminal case, it was not easy to find the defendant guilty because the defense entered some evidence for us to consider, but it was not reasonable in the least. In my jury experience, we defined what reasonable doubt meant to each of us. I think this jury did not engage in a meaningful discussion about what is reasonable and what isn’t.

      How could a reasonable person think it was reasonable for a baby to be double bagged in the woods with duct tape? Clearly only Casey Anthony is culpable for all the reasons stated in the trial.

      I agree with the talking heads who are saying that to these jurors, the proof and the reason for them had to be absolute. But, it never can be absolute, unless they were witnesses to the crime. That’s why we have witnesses that’s why the burden of reasonable doubt exists!

      Reply
  8. Jul 8 2011

    Here is a short, simple and common sense commentary by Bill O’Reily that all who were disappointed in the verdict will wanrt to hear (and i can only hope all of the jurors will listen-not that it will do any good now):

    http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/index.html#/v/1042753597001/good-news-and-bad-news-in-casey-anthony-trial/?playlist_id=87796

    Reply

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