Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony Walks

Where this trial came from or how it turned into some cult news sensation, I have no idea. It's especially peculiar because while some people have been obsessing over it, others haven't even heard of Casey Anthony.

It was usually on TV where I live, so I caught bits and pieces of the trial over the last few weeks. It seemed to be a little ponzi scheme of hype- it was big news because HLN insisted it was big news. Evidently, a lot of people bit.

I don't think there was anything particularly spectacular about the trial itself, aside from the media frenzy (breaking into other programs for updates on this or that) and the media's pronouncing the defendant guilty of murder from the outset. If you watched the trial during one of its breaks or when they cut to the anchors, it was like a nonstop cheerleading session for the prosecution.

I started to wonder how many people even noticed it. I also wondered how much being constantly told someone is guilty might potentially sway someone's opinion. Some say the media has liberal slant, some say it has a conservative slant- I say the media has a pro-government slant, and the Casey Anthony trial is a good example.

The overwhelming consensus of the TV audience is that she was guilty. If you noticed that all of your friends suddenly turned into armchair lawyers in the hour or so following the verdict, it's because in the end, Mrs. Anthony was acquitted on all counts of murder.

I keep my eyes open, and I see more injustice than the average person ever gets to see (anyone who reads Reason Magazine generally does). I've read stories of men serving time for crimes they didn't commit. I've seen men serve out sentences that were exponentially harsher than what their crime warranted. I've read stories of people getting exonerated while sitting on death row (having rotted there for years, and sometimes decades)- and with no compensation after the fact. Name anything about the American justice system, and I guarantee it has its disgraceful elements- from how juries are selected to how laws are written to how evidence is gathered to how due process is afforded the accused, all the way up through how sentences are carried out- and beyond. I could go on for some time. The deck is clearly stacked against defendants when the plaintiff is government.

I don't know the details of the Casey Anthony trial, and I certainly can't say beyond a reasonable doubt whether she did what they said she did (I'm glad I didn't have to). For whatever reason, neither did her jury, and that's why they let her skate. The defense convinced them that the government hadn't met its burden of proof and the verdict made many people unhappy. I'll say this: If the only price we have to pay for sparing innocent people from the jaws of a prison/death sentence is saddling the government with a stiff burden of proof- even if it's the same burden which, this time, let a guilty woman go free- we're getting a bargain. I'd let Casey Anthony walk ten times over if I knew the same judicial process afforded ironclad protections for the innocent.

Note that I do hate the idea of letting the truly guilty go free. But I despise the notion that people could be convicted on a mere probability of guilt, because I understand that the Probable Guilt Standard would inevitably apply to the innocent as well. Better the system be imperfect in favor of the guilty than against the innocent. Let this one slide. Can't win em all, folks.

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