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On The Casey Anthony Verdict

Ugh. It's all I saw today on the Twitters & Faceyspaces. However, Doug shines some truthiness on the subject:
Immediately after the verdict, though, and even in the days leading up to it, I noticed that there were many people who reacted to the verdict about the way you’d expect them to react to any criminal trial that’s been part of the cable news cycle for three years. Casey Anthony has gotten away with murder, they say. There’s no “justice for Caylee.” Or, just the general reaction that there’s something wrong with the justice system because of this verdict.
Instead, I would submit that this case is evidence that, when allowed to operate properly, the criminal justice system works pretty well.

First of all, it’s worth reminding everyone that the standard here is that it’s the state’s obligation to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an incredibly high standard. It means that someone who actually committed a crime could go free if the evidence presented to the jury suggests that there’s another reasonable interpretation of what happened, or if the state isn’t able to produce sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, being found “not guilty” doesn’t mean the Defendant didn’t do it, but it does mean it couldn’t be proven within the bounds of the law, and it reflects the value that we’ve placed on ensuring that only someone who is assuredly guilty goes to prison (or gets executed). As the old saying goes, it’s better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man goes to prison.
Second, the criminal justice system is about a quest for the truth within the bounds of the law, not a quest for “justice” for the victim. That means, for example, that evidence that doesn’t meet the applicable evidentiary standard won’t get before the jury, that statements the Defendant made to the police while in custody but without being advised of their rights will be excluded, and that protection of the Defendants constitutional rights will bar the introduction of illegally seized or unreliable evidence. Some of that evidence might arguably to a quest for “justice,” but it’s not relevant to a quest for truth within the bounds of the law. If you’re looking for “justice” for the victim, you’ll have to search somewhere else because it won’t come from a courtroom.

Finally, I’ll just add that this case struck me as yet another example of how the media can pervert the public perception of the justice system. For three years, the cable networks, especially people like Nancy Grace, covered this case like it was the biggest story ever and had essentially already tried and convicted Casey Anthony even before the trial started. It wouldn’t surprise me if people who spent their time watching such stuff are now sitting around wondering what the heck happened and how this jury could let the “Tot Mom” go free when it’s so clear that she killed her baby. Of course, people don’t get tried and convicted in on Headline News, they get tried in a Court of Law, where they have rights and where the state has to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The people who have spent the last three years thinking they “know” Casey Anthony is guilty, don’t really know anything.
I don't know much about the trial -- and frankly don't care -- but there are quite a few folks out there on the Series of Tubes who are adamant about that the verdict was WRONG (good or bad). These folks need to step back and take a breath...

.... then change the channel.

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Photo: Red Huber/Reuters