Unless you have been living under a rock, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Casey Anthony trial by now. The facts are well-known by most: A young mother failed to report her two year old child’s disappearance for 30 days. She lied to police on several occasions about her child’s whereabouts and other important things. Six months later, the little girl’s bones are found. The police arrested the mother and charged her with 1st degree murder, a death penalty offense in Florida.
National attention surrounded the month long trial. The prosecutors utilized state of the art, never before used forensic testimony in an attempt to convict Casey. However, the State could not prove how Caylee died and the defense offered several alternate theories. The defense pointed the finger at Casey Anthony’s father and alleged that Caylee Anthony accidentally drowned.
Apparently, the jury was swayed by something as they returned not guilty verdicts on the most serious charges and only convicted Casey of 4 misdemeanor charges of lying to the police. Media and social outrage ensued. How could the jury acquit her after all the evidence against her?!?! Where is the justice?!? Similar outrage was felt after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and Ron Goldman and at least one major newspaper has labeled Casey as the “new OJ”. L.A. rioted when police officers were acquitted of assaulting Rodney King.
So, is our jury system broken? As a lawyer for nearly 17 years, I have felt disappointment when a jury does not find for my client. However, I would never go so far as to say that the system is broken. What we have to understand, and learn, from high profile trials like Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson is that the information that we get is filtered through the media. The media decides what to report to us. The media thrives on ratings and selling newspapers (like anyone reads those anymore). The media has an agenda which they are pushing and this is quite different from the actual evidence which a jury hears in a court of law.
The vast majority of Americans think that the Casey Anthony trial, OJ trial, and Rodney King trial are accurate representations of our legal system. They are not. The vast majority of persons charged with crimes are found guilty. The media only reports on the high profile cases because the other cases don’t bring the ratings.
It is easy for us as “arm chair quarterbacks” to second guess a jury the way we second guess our favorite college football coaches. However, this jury sat through ALL the relevant testimony for a month and a half. They had access to all the relevant evidence which you and I did not see. The jury took an oath to follow the law and not be swayed by sympathy and prejudice.
And let’s now forget an important point: The jury’s verdict does not mean that Casey Anthony is innocent. It simply means that the Government did not prove that she killed her child by proof beyond reasonable doubt. I know that this is a hard concept for most to accept until they, or a loved one, is facing a similar charge.
Our system of justice is great because we allow a jury made up of citizens to decide another person’s fate. Our system of justice is great because we require the Government to prove a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Do we have verdicts that don’t make sense to us? Yes. But don’t forget, for every Casey Anthony, who most think was guilty, we have Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, two men convicted of crimes that they did not commit who spent 2 decades on death row. For every OJ we have Cedric Willis. You can be sure that the Government prosecutors who helped convict these innocent men were celebrating their victories. Did Nancy Grace, or any other media talking head, go on t.v. and say that “the Devil is dancing”?. Did any member of the media criticize those prosecutors for doing their job? Nope. However, when a defense lawyer wins a case the Devil dances. Sad really.
Do juries make mistakes? Yes they do. But we should not be so quick to assault a jury verdict simply because we don’t agree with it. Jury’s often convict those who are innocent and we have executed innocent persons. The Devil was dancing when those people were wrongly convicted and executed as well Ms. Grace.
Charles R. Mullins has been working in the justice system for nearly 17 years and has never once “danced with the Devil”. Check out more about Chuck on his website.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.