Debate Forum Right, 7/19/11

A reasonable man’s verdict? Guilty.

by Marianne Stanley

Marianne Stanley

The Casey Anthony trial has created a tremor across America, with two-thirds of us saying the verdict was wrong. While we’re busy being angry at the thought of a murderer walking free, most of us forget to be grateful for the light it has thrown onto the failings of our criminal justice system, which generally doesn’t serve justice anymore. There is an old saying that goes, “law and justice are distant cousins that haven’t spoken to each other for a very long time.” The Casey Anthony trial is a case in point.

Like so many other American systems, from the monetary system to the political system, the purpose has been lost in needless complexity. This is not an accident. By keeping the average Joe from understanding how things work, those who craft our systems and the regulations that support them, are free to work the will of the few at the expense of the many.

Did Casey Anthony murder her own child? Did her father, George, do it to cover up sexual abuse of the little girl who lived in his home, if he is indeed the sexual predator Casey claimed he was? Word is that the jurors were suspicious of both Casey and George. Since it is obvious we will never know what really happened, why are people so enraged at the “not guilty” verdict?

The simple answer is that Casey is guilty of the killing, if not directly, then in a complicit way. It would have made more sense if all three adults living in the same household — Casey, her father and her mother, were all charged with murder and obstruction of justice since all three lived with Caylee and took part in raising her. All have lied and misled authorities, which, in itself, implies guilt. They know what happened to Caylee.

Trials are always an imperfect way to determine guilt or innocence. So much of them are smoke and mirrors with the prosecution hoping to score another “win” and the defense willing to do anything to get their client off, even if they absolutely know he or she is guilty as charged.

Is the justice system flawed? Absolutely. In a big way. Defense lawyers are expected to raise reasonable doubt in jurors by whatever means possible in order to get their client off. In other words, the defense lawyer could be sure that a murder was committed and that his or her client did it but still be required to try to get his client off using any means at his disposal. A “not guilty” verdict in court is often a feather in the lawyer’s cap but a curse upon society-at-large.

The jury found reasonable doubt on the question of whether Caylee was killed by her mother. In this case, the jurors believed that if they had any doubt, they must find Anthony “not guilty.” But reasonable doubt is not the same as having any reason to doubt. Reasonable doubt, like the legal standard for the “Reasonable Man” test that is the norm in all areas of law, only requires that reasonable people would come to the same conclusion, looking at all these facts:

1. A mother of a missing almost 3-year-old child never reports her missing. Cindy, Casey’s mother, reported Caylee missing after more than a month.

2. The computer in the home Casey shared with her parents showed that there were 84 searches for “chloroform.” It also showed searches for “neck breaking.”

3. Though Casey’s mother testified that she was the one who made those searches and meant to search “chlorophyll” (84 times?), records from Cindy’s workplace showed she was actually at work on those days.

4. Casey’s car put a police cadaver dog on high alert and forensic scientists found chemicals associated with a decomposing body in the trunk of Casey’s car.

5. Traces of chloroform were found in the trunk.

6. Casey’s diary shortly after Caylee disappeared said, “I have no regrets, just a bit worried. I am finally happy.”

7. The remains of Caylee showed that she had duct tape put over her nose and mouth even though the best reason the defense could come up with for Caylee’s death was accidental drowning in the family’s above ground pool. The duct tape was supposedly put over Caylee’s face by George in his attempt to make it look like a murder rather than an accident.

8. Casey got a tattoo that said “beautiful life” in Italian two weeks after Caylee disappeared.

9. Casey lied repeatedly to investigators and had an arrest record for theft, using another person’s credit card and forgery.

10. She refused to testify.

Using a “Reasonable Man” test for this trial, Casey would have been found guilty. Instead, despite all this strong circumstantial evidence, the jurors erroneously let Casey walk. They indicated that the prosecution’s call for the death penalty complicated things for them since there was no CSI-type “hard” evidence like fingerprints or DNA. They also indicated they were “sick to their stomachs” over handing down a not-guilty verdict. They even suspected that Casey’s father, George, played a larger role in the murder and cover-up. Had the charges included complicity and clarified “reasonable doubt,” the jury could have voted their conscience rather than acquitting a person they all felt was guilty of or complicit in the murder of her child.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing throughout middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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