At first, you might ask why is the Casey Anthony trial a subject of a blog on my site, which is devoted to discussing issues that are relative to individuals injured and killed at sea? My blog focuses on maritime cases and maritime laws.
However, the Casey Anthony trial has generated so much attention to our legal system, and now that the jury found her not guilty, there has been a floodgate of criticism of the jury system. Nancy Grace, who is probably loving the attention, has been criticized for her coverage of the Casey Anthony case, finding her guilty before she even had the benefit of a trial before a jury of her peers. As a father of three girls, I’m appalled at Casey Anthony. I had difficulty watching the trial and listening to the evidence because of my feelings about the case. I am one who believes Casey Anthony may have gotten away with murder. However, my use of the word “may” made me think about our system, and the standard required to find somebody guilty of a criminal act, especially one that carries with it the punishment of the death penalty.
I’m a civil trial lawyer. We are only required to prove our cases by what’s called the greater weight of the evidence, which simply means that we must prove what is more likely than not. We’ve all heard the standard in a criminal case, which is the prosecution must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Did Casey Anthony murder her daughter? Do we have the burning conviction of no reasonable doubt that she is guilty based on each and every element that the crime requires to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be found guilty? Not having watched the entire trial, I am unable to express a strong opinion whether I feel the evidence itself met the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt regarding each and every element, as defined by the judge and the jury instructions that were read to the jury.
What I do know is that the civil jury system is coming under attack again, as it did after the O.J. Simpson trial fifteen years ago. This leads me back to the question why write about the Casey Anthony trial on a maritime law blog? It is because I’m a proponent of our civil jury system, and whether you are a person accused of a crime, or a victim bringing a civil action to receive compensation for the harm caused due to the negligence of another, our civil jury system is the method that our country utilizes to resolve disputes. We often will discuss with jurors that there are some countries in this world that still believe in the old adage, an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth. This means that some countries believe that if a person negligently causes another one to lose an eye, the compensation should actually be punishment of the wrong doer by similarly causing them to lose their eye. This barbaric system of justice is not what our country is all about.
As I stated above, I’m appalled at Casey Anthony, and everything she stands for. I did listen in disbelief today to the alternate juror speaking on television when he stated that he felt Casey Anthony was a “good mother”. Apparently, the alternate felt that the evidence showed that she was a good mother, and therefore it was too much for the jury to believe that a “good mother” would actually murder their own child. How an individual could come to that conclusion after Casey Anthony didn’t even report her daughter missing for over thirty days is incredible, and unfathomable. Apparently, this particular juror was focusing on motive, which in a criminal case is not an element of the crime. It is almost an impossibility to get into the minds of a deranged individual and figure out why they committed a heinous crime. Putting motive aside, the actions of Casey Anthony following her child going missing was enough for many people to conclude that she must have been guilty of murder. I do not profess to know the psychology of a killer, or know enough about Casey Anthony to diagnose her mental condition, and what actions an individual with such problems would take following the disappearance of their child, even assuming if there was an accidental death.
Back to the topic of why I wrote this blog about the Casey Anthony trial. I am writing this blog because while I am one of the individuals who was truly shocked by the verdict, expecting Casey Anthony to be found guilty, I remain a strong proponent of the civil jury system and must believe that it actually worked in this particular case. Did the prosecution go too far? Did the prosecution make mistakes by presenting certain evidence, leaving out certain evidence, and pursuing certain theories of the murder that were a mistake? Possibly. That is what happens in trials. The bottom line remains that a jury must make the decision based on the law given to them by a judge and the evidence presented in the courtroom. Emotions are not supposed to dictate the decision. While the emotions we feel towards a child, as I do to my three daughters, makes it truly impossible to fathom the actions of Casey Anthony, did she actually commit the act of murder on her child, as the defined by the laws read to the jury by this particular judge, and based on the evidence that the prosecution presented to this jury? I do not know the answer to that question. I do rely on the jury system to work.
We see attacks on the jury system in the civil arena just as well as the criminal arena. I have recently blogged about the documentary Hot Coffee, which tries to dispel myths about the attacks on our civil jury system. Surely, the result in the Casey Anthony trial will result in further attacks on our jury system. Casey Anthony may be free as early as tomorrow. She may go on to write a book, make television appearances, and profit from all of this. That is appalling. I truly hope that doesn’t happen.
I also want to leave with one additional comment that I make as a lawyer. Although I truly respect the lawyers for the defense team, and respect anybody who advocates for their client within the bounds of the ethical rules and the law, it struck me as somewhat offensive to see the defense lawyers hugging and crying along with Casey Anthony, and then hearing that they were toasting champagne to celebrate their “victory”. The defense lawyer had referred to his client as a liar and a slut, but that didn’t make her guilty of murder. Again, as a father of three daughters, I could never have sat next to Casey Anthony during her defense in this trial. Certainly, I would not have been hugging and crying along with her out of happiness for that verdict. Of course, I’m not a criminal defense lawyer who has to take on difficult cases, from both a legal and moral standpoint. I guess you have to love your client regardless. That’s probably a main reason why I’m not a criminal lawyer, and I am a civil attorney fighting for the rights of individuals who have been victims of negligent and criminal acts.
My daughters have asked me how Casey Anthony was found not guilty. The only explanation I can give them is to repeat that there is a difference between not guilty in a court of law, and not guilty. I told them that we may all believe she is guilty, but the jury system found her not guilty. I’ve explained to them that we have to live with that conclusion because that is our civil jury system, and that is our Constitution of the United States that we are so proud of. I am reminded of the famous from Winston Churchill about democracy, which he called the worst form of government, except for all the rest.
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