Casey Anthony: justice is served

So this past week my Twitter and Facebook feeds were flush with friends and followees’ declarations of disbelief, shock and anger that Casey Anthony should be acquitted of allegedly murdering her two year old daughter. One friend remarked that she has “never been so angry with twelve people in her life.”

Let me say that I am wholly ignorant on the particulars of the Anthony case. When the story broke I remember giving it a cursory glance. After the verdict was reached I read a couple stories but I’m still unable to comment on her guilt or innocence. Neither are you – even if you’ve been following it since day one.

In a criminal trial the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. The jury did not feel that this criteria was sufficiently met. Every single member of that jury knows a lot more then you or I will ever know about the case. Yet we’re content to read news reports of her alleged crimes and wallow in our righteous indignation. I doubt my aforementioned friend ever sat on a jury in a criminal trial (neither have I). I doubt she, or most other people, has ever felt the weight of deciding someone’s guilt or innocence on a scale of that magnitude.

My friend Thom recently sat on a jury in a criminal trial in upstate New York. I remember him describing to me the responsibility he felt to get it right and how important it was. He told me about the speech the judge gave to the jury every time the court adjourned about not talking to anyone about the case and not searching the internet for information about the defendant that could prejudice their decision. The trial was about a small amount of drugs.

Yes, it’s sad that a little girl was murdered. And my friend happens to be the mother of a little girl so I’m sure the Anthony case hit home for her. But the only reason mainstream America knows about the Anthony case is because an editor in Florida decided it was news and other editors decided to pick up the story because the salacious and horrifying details would play well online and on TV. And we bought it – hook, line and sinker. We’re still buying it. It feels good to vent about this injustice and agree on something; that Casey Anthony is a monster that should die a horrible death!

This post could go in a bunch of different directions right now. It could talk about the responsibility of the media to report fairly or it could mention that the US military has killed scores of children in the various wars we’re currently prosecuting. But the biggest point I want to make is that we should avoid a pack mentality when it comes to electrifying news stories, or pretty much anything for that matter. The horror we feel at the details reported should never outweigh the knowledge that whatever we’re reading or watching is (in most cases) not from a primary source. Our emotions, which are being played with for profit, should not displace the knowledge that we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

Take the title of this post for instance. I specifically phrased it Casey Anthony: justice is served so that people would click on it because JUSTICE WASN”T SERVED! WHAT IS THIS GUY TALKING ABOUT?! Justice was served; a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers heard the evidence against her and found her not guilty. Is justice served when that same jury convicts an innocent man of murder and he spends twenty years of his life in a jail cell for a crime he didn’t commit? Yea, that happensall the time. Our justice system is arguably the best in the world and it is far, far from perfect. It’s very easy to give into emotions and go with the flow. But be a smart media consumer: unless it happened to you or someone you know well, the only thing you know is that you don’t know.

Note: Several comments were made on this article via Facebook, including a few by the friend whose post I used in the first paragraph. Our exchanges are as follows. Not everyone reacted negatively to the piece, but I only posted the dissenting comments because those are often more fun.

Amanda Hale:

Well, Daniel – I feel like I have to chime in on this. After thoughtful consideration, and not being able to find closure in this case; I sat down and really thought about it from the juror’s point of view. I understand that all evidence was circumstantial, and no, they were not actually able to “point the finger” directly at her. But did you read the article about how those 12 people all felt sick to their stomach, and even cried, after the verdict was read? I do not feel that justice was served and the only people to blame for that is our own people. Just because she was found NOT GUILTY does NOT mean she is INNOCENT. And you can quote 4 jurors saying that. And yes, it did hit home for me. Perhaps, you should have interviewed me, for my additional side to the story before using a one liner I said in the act of anger and sadness to this poor little girl.

 Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs surrounding this case, and I respect that. I thought you wrote a very good article. However, perhaps you didn’t listen to the trials, the closing statements and the rebuttals, to see what the actuality of this case really was. How can someone celebrate the not guilty verdict of a client they knew was guilty from the beginning??? I just don’t understand. And yes, people, children, get murdered all the time. This case just happened to be a media frenzy, perhaps because she was a beautiful little girl, and a very good looking mother. Or the fact, that everyone looked at her as being an ignorant person, who didn’t report her daughter missing for 31 days, and they just stuck around, always catching up on the articles to see what happened. Either way, I respect the jury’s decision, and I can now see where they came up with the verdict. It is very unfortunate to how the outcome was reached.

 Basically, everyone knows she killed her daughter. She knows it, her lawyers know it and the parents know it. The fact that there wasn’t enough evidence to actually CHARGE her is just heartbreaking.

Daniel Fitzsimmons:

My article wasn’t really about her guilt or innocence, it was about how we have to resist the temptation to buy in emotionally to a story hand-picked for our consumption. Yes, I said justice was served, but you and several others mistook justice for Justice. My point was that the justice system worked as it was supposed to work, and people became incensed with the verdict even though their opinion was informed by not only the televised trial (which in and of itself raises some ethical issues) but by the media portrayal of this woman as a monster. My piece was also a defense of the jury, and that we shouldn’t judge them because we didn’t sit on that jury and hear that evidence, they did. It’s very easy for us to “know” she did it, but the jury didn’t (shouldn’t) see the media coverage, and rightfully so – that’s how our justice system works.

That said, thank you for weighing in, I respect your opinion too and my use of your status was not a personal attack on your beliefs. It was one of many examples I could have used and I accounted for why you probably felt so strongly in my writing.

Amanda Hale:

I 100% see your point in your article. And you are absolutly right, it’s just a really sad, sad case. And not many people can see it like you do. That is why I sat down yesterday and really looked into how the verdict was given. Note: this was done AFTER my post. I see things from a totally different light now. (I still wish she was in jail).

Laura Malone:

I’m not as surprised as everyone else seems to be that she got off, because the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence. Nonetheless, logic would tell us she did it, and it is pretty clear as day.  So, justice being served? I don’t think so.  The jury did what they were supposed to do?  Yep. Also, the case was broadcasted live on TV – I’ve been following it since the beginning, so I saw what the juror’s saw. It was not presented well.

Daniel Fitzsimmons:

You also saw the news reports, which the jury did not (should not) have seen, and I would bet any amount of money your mind was made up well before a verdict was reached. That said, I love different opinions.

Laura Malone:

Absolutely not. I wanted not to believe that a mother could ever do that to their only child.

About Daniel Fitzsimmons

Staff writer for the Manhattan weeklies Our Town, Our Town Downtown and the West Side Spirit.
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