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November 27, 2011

3

when justice isn’t

by Andrea O'Connell

When criminal trials are only about winning or losing like in a sporting event, the outcome will not always be justice.   The best team doesn’t always win.  The Police and State Attorneys are not always as honest as the fine men and women who worked in the Casey Anthony case, in Orlando.

Orlando had exceptional people working on the Casey Anthony case – with the exception of Deputy Cain, that is.  (In case you don’t recall, Cain was the Officer who responded to Roy Kronk’s August 2008 call to police about seeing, in the swamp off of Suburban Drive, what appeared to be a human skull.   Cain was summarily fired for not following through on the investigation of the area that Kronk identified.  Afterwards, to make matters worse, Cain told lie after lie.  His long lies did him in and he was fired from the Orlando sheriff’s Office.)

But, this whole idea of justice can be a slippery slope when one side or the other (Prosecution or Defense), throws their scruples out the window in favor of winning at any cost.  It begs the question then, what is justice anyway? Like in football, or any sport, the best team may not win. Flukes happen, people have bad days, we’re only human….  That’s why the bar is high when it comes to the Government proving its case “beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.”   That’s a high burden.  It’s a high-stakes game in the courtroom.

The stakes couldn’t be higher when an innocent person is charged with a crime by a relentless prosecutor who refuses to admit a mistake.  That is the worst possible outcome because there is truly no justice.  I guess you could say it’s anti-justice.  Is there anything worse than an innocent person being jailed for a crime they did not commit?

Likewise, when all roads lead to the ultimate conclusion that one perpetrator of a crime is the one sitting at the defendant’s table but a jury, realizing they will be in the spotlight, wish to err on the side of caution and let a murderer go, there is no justice, either.   However, it is a far better thing that Casey Anthony walked free than for an innocent person to be convicted. 

Was there justice for Caylee Anthony?  Hardly.

I still do not believe the Casey Anthony Not Guilty verdict was the result of the Prosecution’s case being weak.  I cannot accept that.  I honestly believe the jurors cared more about themselves than they did holding Casey Anthony liable for murder.

Life is not fair but the justice system should always be.  And it usually is fair, but not always as you’ll see in the sad case of little Holly Staker who, in 1992 was raped and murdered as she baby-sat for neighborhood children.  Holly was only 11 years old, and the person charged with the crime was 19-year-old Juan Rivera.

This story in today’s New York Times Magazine, is about winning and losing and the fact that justice took a holiday for Rivera just as it had for the People of Orlando, Florida in the trial of Casey Anthony.

The facts in the Rivera case have to do with Rivera being arrested, tried, and convicted of the rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly despite there being scant evidence of such crime.  The only “evidence” is the four-day police interrogation of Rivera in which, on the fourth day, he confessed.  He finally confessed to the crime and that is what convicted him.    Despite overwhelming evidence that Rivera is innocent, a confession was beaten out of him and it was that evidence alone that nailed him to the cross.

Murder/rape victim Holly Staker. Photo credit: New York Times

As a result of DNA testing, Rivera was excluded as a source of the semen found in the victim.  It didn’t matter. The Prosecutors made up scenarios that the jury believed. Namely, that the victim was sexually active. A ludicrous suggestion that the jury bought.

There was no physical evidence connecting Rivera to the crime scene.  It didn’t matter.  Rivera confessed so he must be guilty.    The prosecution’s argument (one of them) said that 11-year-old victim was sexually active which explains why Rivera’s DNA was not present.

The outcome of this trial, the life sentence of Juan Rivera, is far more heinous than the not guilty verdict in the Anthony case.

The story is somewhat long, but very good.  The link is below for your reference.

The Prosecution’s Case Against DNA, by reporter Andrew Martin, New York Times.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. OhWell
    Nov 28 2011

    This was a good read, but a profoundly sad story. When I saw Holly’s picture I wanted so bad for her to be alive, that I was actually angry that the picture of a rape victim was shown. However, upon reading further, it was abundantly clear that this young girl was brutally killed and then, I was just sad, and of course angry.
    R.I.P. Holly…you deserved so much better!!!

    Reply
    • Nov 28 2011

      Hi Oh Well, I agree – it is a difficult and tragic story – what happened to Holly is difficult to understand; and what’s almost as worse is the conviction of the wrong person.
      Thank you for your comment – you said it all.

      Reply
  2. Nov 30 2011

    Yes, it is a tragedy if a innocent Person is convicted of a Crime, however I believe it is just as bad if a guilty Person goes free!
    It shouldn’t come down to it’s better to let one guilty Person go free than have a innocent Person convicted.
    Both are wrong!

    Reply

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