Casey Anthony Got Away With Murder
Forget about America’s ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya with nearly 7,500 of our fellow citizens dead. Forget about the country’s $14.3 trillion debt that could soon lead to a federal government shutdown. Forget about everything, including the 16,441 other killings in the U.S. in 2008 and instead spend all your time fixated on two-year-old Caylee Anthony in Orlando. Why? Because the media told you that the death of this one child allegedly caused by her mom Casey was literally the most important thing in the world. And you, well at least most of you, fell for it. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t waste a single second piling on this tragic story. But I’m forced to write about an important aspect of it. And that is the public’s condemnation of the jury’s verdict. The public got it wrong. The jury got it right.
But before commending the jury for its correct verdict, I am compelled to condemn the media for its racism. Why did they make this such a big deal? After all, there were 1,168 other persons killed in Florida in 2008 and a record-breaking 123 of them in the Orlando area. The answer is racism or at least racial indifference. The widespread and relentless attention to this case stemmed from the fact that, although heartbreakingly horrific, a little white girl was dead. She was a sweet, beautiful and completely innocent little angel who should have lived a wonderful, 100-year life. And every human being—white, black, brown, yellow or otherwise—should be absolutely devastated by such a tragedy. But the killing of a white child gets extra-special attention from the American media because it gets extra-special attention from America. Does anyone think that such attention would have been given if the mother was named, let’s say, Rashida Jenkins from North Philly and the daughter was named, for example, Shantay? Or, even better, what if the mother was Banita Jacks from D.C. and her daughters were five-year-old Aja, six-year-old N’Kiah, 11-year-old Tatianna, and 16-year-old Brittany? And what if she had strangled and stabbed those sleeping children to death in 2007 and then left their decaying bodies lined up according to age in the family’s death-stench-filled home where she continued to reside for about six months before being arrested, found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to 120 years in 2009? You didn’t hear anything about this, did you? I wonder why?
In the American legal system, all defendants, including Casey Anthony, are and should be presumed innocent. In addition, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, which must prove defendants guilty and must do so beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Presumed innocent” means a jury is obligated by law to assume the defendant is not guilty. “Not guilty” does not mean innocent. There’s a big difference between “not guilty” and innocent. “Not guilty” means the prosecution didn’t prove it. Innocent means the defendant didn’t do it. In other words, a person could have factually committed a crime but legally be not guilty of that crime. How could that be, you ask incredibly? Ask OJ, I respond emphatically. Remember the glove that didn’t fit, the DNA that didn’t match, and the racist cop who lied about having been a racist cop? If Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden had realized that leather shrinks after being soaked in salty water, i.e., blood, if the police lab trainee had not compromised the DNA sample by carrying it around in her pocket for almost the entire day, and if Mark Fuhrman had simply testified that “Hey, I’m like many white and black cops and many white and black civilians in that I’ve used the nigger/nigga slur a few times before and I’m sorry about that. But that sell-out African American gentleman over there is a decapitating murderer,” then the prosecution would have won, and OJ would now be serving a life sentence as a double murderer.
“Burden of proof” means the prosecution is required to persuade the jury that the defendant did it. The defendant doesn’t have to prove that he didn’t do it. The law mandates this in order to level the playing field. Think about it. Every criminal prosecution is a David-versus-Goliath battle, with the district attorney’s offices being a Goliath with four awesome powers: the power to take your children through a custody order, your property through the imposition of a fine, your liberty through incarceration, and your life through the death penalty. And not only do they have these awesome powers, they’re also awesomely powerful entities in and of themselves. For example, in Philadelphia, the D.A. has the country’s largest criminal law firm with more than 300 attorneys, the biggest investigative body with 7,000 police officers, and the most resources with a $31 million budget. And every single time it prosecutes a case, it has the capacity to wield those awesome powers as an awesomely powerful entity. Without the “burden of proof” requirement, Goliath would unfairly crush David every single time because power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt” means the jury is so convinced that the prosecution has sufficiently proven its case that not one “reasonable and prudent person (on the jury) ultimately pauses or hesitates to vote guilty or ultimately refrains from voting guilty as he or she would ultimately pause, hesitate, or refrain from acting upon any matter of importance in his or her own affairs.”
In Casey Anthony’s murder trial—wherein she was actually facing the death penalty—there was no “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” because there were no eyewitnesses. There was no confession. There was no DNA on the duct tape that was claimed to have suffocated Caylee. The purportedly strong odor of rotted human flesh emanating from Casey’s car was never presented to the jury and obviously never could have been, certainly not after three years. And, most important, the body was so badly decomposed that even the prosecutors themselves couldn’t say what caused the child’s 2008 death. How then could they argue that Casey should receive capital punishment for a malicious and premeditated homicide? Yes, I know that for 31 days she lied about her daughter’s whereabouts, including the complete fabrication about the child living with a nanny named Zanny, then being with Casey’s rich boyfriend in Tampa. Yes, I know she partied like a rock star instead of grieving like a distraught mother. But all of that is evidence of being a stupid liar, not evidence of being a brutal murderer. You might argue that “the bitch did it,” and you’d get no debate from me. But you’d get no guilty verdict either. However, you would get a discussion about how criminal law jurisprudence does and should work. Fortunately for all of us, the jury, after seeing all the exhibits and listening to all the arguments for 35 days, understood and deliberated in an unemotional and a “just the facts, ma’am” manner—and then got it right.