Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I am stunned. Simply stunned. Not since the OJ Simpson trial have I been this stunned. But I am stunned again.
I watched the reading of the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial and had trouble believing what I heard. I had to listen to it several times to believe it. This was shocking.
I began following the story of a two year old little girl, Caylee Anthony, who was missing about three years ago. I watched the story unfold on the Nancy Grace show almost every night. I love Nancy Grace. She actually says what a lot of us are thinking and yes, she puts it abruptly and rudely at times. She reminds me of a law professor. She can be that brutal at times, even to her friends.
It was on the Nancy Grace show that I became aware of the missing toddler, who was the daughter of a young, single mother. Caylee had been missing for 31 days before any report was made to the police. And when she was reported missing, it was not by Casey Anthony, Caylee’s mother, but by Cindy Anthony, Caylee’s grandmother. Cindy was horrified to find out that her granddaughter had not been seen by a family member for 31 days and no police report had been made. So she called 9-1-1 and made the initial report, relating to the dispatcher that she desperately wanted to find Caylee.
What would come next would be a series of public outcries for help, numerous searches for the young child by authorities, friends and neighbors. Strangers from the area came forward to help to find the toddler. This was followed by shocking events and lies revealed that would all come together in the weaving of a macabre plot, the kind of which no fictional author could ever imagine.
A search for Caylee began and lasted for six months, when a meter reader by the name of Roy Krunk found the body in the woods not far from Casey Anthony’s home. Caylee was dead and her body was skeletonized.
The question was, who had killed her? Local sheriff’s deputies charged Caylee’s mother Casey Anthony with the death of her daughter. This began a legal case that would end on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 with a verdict of not guilty.
How did this happen?
The state presented evidence indicating that Casey’s death was a homicide. The cause of death was unknown because of the condition of her body when the body was found. The prosecution presented evidence of a foul odor emanating from Casey Anthony’s car, the presence of chloroform in Casey’s car, a hair from Casey’s car that had the “death band” around it; the hair belonged to Caylee. They presented evidence that duct tape was placed over the mouth of Caylee and that the last person seen with Caylee was Casey. They presented evidence that Casey lied repeatedly to the police, about a fictional babysitter, about being employed by Universal Studios, about conducting her own investigation, and many other things. They presented evidence of a computer search that occurred on the computer in the Anthony home about neck breaking, and chloroform.
For every fact that the prosecution presented, the defense presented testimony that rebutted the facts: a medical examiner who testified that there was no certainty that the death was a homicide, an allegation that Caylee’s death was an accident, an allegation that Casey was sexually abused by both her father and her brother from the age of 8 years old, an allegation that she was taught to lie at the same age and had to for the sake of survival in a dysfunctional home. He presented Casey’s mother, who alleged that it was she who performed these questionable searches on the computer in the Anthony home. This was proven to be false by the prosecution.
The defense presented a female who alleged that she had an affair with Casey’s dad George and that George had told her that Caylee’s death was an accident that snowballed out of control. George denied the same on the witness stand.
The prosecution’s case was strong. The defense’s case seemed desperate. Every day, the trial was shown on live TV with commentary by legal experts. They pointed out the good points made by the prosecution, the defense and the mistakes made by both. They pointed out and exaggerated Casey’s mannerisms, and reactions to everyone.
When the closing arguments were made, they were vigorous. At one point, one of the attorneys for the prosecution was laughing during the closing arguments of the defense, which produced a comment by the defense attorney that angered the judge. The Judge called both attorneys down and made them watch a video of their behavior, admonishing them and telling them that if it happened again, the offending lawyer would be barred from the remainder of the proceedings.
The defense finished their closing statement and the next morning, court opened with the rebuttal statement of the prosecution that was nothing short of brilliant. All of the legal experts on TV commented that they knew these final words of the prosecution would be ringing in the ears of the jury as they began deliberations that afternoon.
The next morning, the jury began to deliberate again. They announced a verdict about 2:30 pm.
The prosecutors looked relaxed as they sat in their chairs waiting for the jury to be announced. They knew what a great job they had done. They knew that they had a slam dunk. Everyone assembled in the courtroom and stood as the jury filed in.
The defendant and her legal counsel were asked to stand for the reading of the verdict. The first charge, capital murder was not guilty. The second charge, not guilty. The third charge, not guilty. As each charge was read, Casey Anthony tried to stifle tears. She appeared to be shocked. Everyone else seemed to be shocked as well. The jury found her guilty of four counts of lying to the police. Whoop-tee-do.
This is a misdemeanor. She is going to be sentenced on Thursday for those crimes. She could get a maximum of four years in jail per misdemeanor.
She will probably get off for time served.
The prosecution sat in stunned silence. The defense celebrated with hugging, crying, and a group hug. The observers could tell that they were as shocked as everyone else.
So what happened? How did such a sure prosecution lead to a not guilty verdict? The lawyers on TV were in a tailspin. They were at a loss to offer an immediate explanation. Many of the locals in Orlando were angry. Many people feel that Caylee Anthony’s death has not been avenged.
So is it now legal to kill your kids as long as you hide the body long enough for all of the evidence to be destroyed?
What went wrong? By late last night, many of the legal pundits had regrouped and had begun to offer plausible explanations for the jury’s verdict. But, these explanations were just guesses.
What do I think went wrong? I don’t know. But I am going to offer some guesses here, just like a lot of the people on TV have.
One is that the jury was sequestered for approximately six weeks. It may be that being sequestered affects one’s logic. The stimulation that one receives by being sequestered is severely limited and this may affect the mental health and the brain processing of an individual. Intellectual stimulation is necessary for good brain health and the lack of normal social interaction and intellectual stimulation has to have an effect on someone’s logical reasoning, mental health and judgment.
Also, the jurors may have just wanted to go home. Had they given a verdict of guilty for the capital murder charge, they would have had to stay longer because they would have had to evaluate and deliberate about the sentence once they rendered a verdict for guilty for capital murder. Also, a capital murder conviction would have required close deliberation and discussion. They would have had to taken the time to review the evidence in light of the instructions for the jury rendered by the judge. Evidentiary evaluation would have required value judgments: the deciding of who they believed and who they didn’t, one fact at a time. This would have taken a lot longer than the ten hours that they spent deliberating and maybe they were physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from not only the trial itself, but from being sequestered. Maybe the sequestering process needs to be studied and evaluated . Maybe this practice introduces an undesirable element to the process: the element of inadequate factual review, and ultimately, making serious mistakes with the verdict.
Another consideration is that all of the lawyers were making evaluations of the performance of the counsel, based on their trial experience and their education at law school. The jury is not made up of people with copious trial experience and a legal education. It is made up of people who don’t have the benefit of a legal education. On the contrary, although many of the people had professional occupations, such as nurses, teachers, IT professionals, this education is not legal in nature and they had no expectations for legal arguments; they had a layman’s expectations, which is not subject to pre-conceived notions of the lawyers.
In other words, rather than to get inside the heads of the best legal minds in this nation, maybe someone should have been getting inside the mind of the jury, I.e. regular people who don’t have the benefit of a legal education.
Maybe the average jury is not intelligent enough to understand the very detailed forensics that is presented by some of these prosecutors. Maybe it needs to be dumbed down.
Or, maybe I am wrong and the jury got it right. If so, Caylee’s killer still needs to be caught and charged. Or maybe Casey is the killer and the prosecution just didn’t have enough direct evidence to prove the case. I do think that they did the absolute best that they could with what the available evidence.
There are many more guesses to be made, more theories to be presented by many more people than me. These are just a few that I can present.
Still, I am completely stunned. After the OJ Simpson trial, I was stunned, shocked and angry. I was angry that a jury had allowed a murderer to go free. I felt that they had ignored a lot of evidence. I think the same thing now. I’m older now. I am not angry this time. It would serve no practical purpose. I think that in the long run, Casey Anthony will continue to self-destruct in a similar way that OJ Simpson has. She will probably be convicted of more crimes in the future. I think that inevitably, justice will be served.
Regardless of whether or not justice was served, the life of Caylee Marie Anthony had meaning. Rest in Peace, Caylee.