OK let the outrage set in – everyone thought she was clearly guilty but now Casey Anthony has been acquitted in the murder of her own daughter and everyone is freaking out. I can give you the standard trial lawyer explanation – the verdict is “Not Guilty” its not “Innocent” Just because the jury said there was not enough evidence to convict her in this circumstantial case does not mean that she did not commit the crime. Sure someone happened to be researching manufacturing chloroform in the home the day before her daughter was asphyxiated but is that enough to send someone to the electric chair or however they’re killing the convicted in Florida these days? Just because Casey Anthony’s mother took blame for the chloroform search only for it to be revealed that she was actually at work when it happened and she testified that she did not do all of the searches for chloroform, wouldn’t many mothers lie to protect their child whether they were guilty or innocent. This is called a “dry bones” case as the victims remains were not found until they were reduced to skeleton, so there was not a lot of forensic evidence to be analyzed. So its an example of the justice system at work.
But the outrage should be on what our society has become. Why was this trial broadcast 24/7 and covered by every major news outlet across the country? FBI statistics show that women commit only two crimes as often as men do, year after year – Shoplifting and the killing of their own children. Courtrooms across the country have similar trials going on right now. They just don’t involve cute white girls -both the defendant and the victim in this case. Sensationalizing this trial placed too big a burden on a local prosecutor’s office which has 140 other pending murder cases (11 involving the murder of children). But because the “eyes of the world” were on them the DA’s office presented 90 witnesses over a period of 33 days, but they had no smoking gun. With all the CSI shows and the Mentalist, the Closer, etc etc people now have an unreasonable expectation of what they will be presented by the police department. Add to that the ridiculous lawyer shows -Boston Legal, The Defenders, Suits, etc. . . that reduce trial lawyers to jokes and buffoons whose idea of cross examination is to stand right in front of the witnesses and badger them until they confess to the crime or fail to refute a key element of evidence so jurors also now have an unreasonable expectation of what they will see in the courtroom. Televising the trial day by day also over-hypes the case – yes its a murder case, but its just one of thousands of murder trials being conducted every day. I suspect that had this been conducted in the quiet way all other trials are conducted, open to those who get there early enough to get a seat, and then maybe covered in the local media, it may have been easier to get a conviction.
So what happens now? Well, her attorney Jose Baez is likely to become a media star even though commentators along the way have been pointing out how he did not appear to have a great handle on the rules of evidence. He will now be the “go to guy”commenting on every other “trial of the century.” The parents of Casey Anthony have had their lives destroyed – her father revealed as an abuser and her mother a perjurer. Some jurors will break their silence and do the media circuit by next week at the latest. And what about Casey? Is there any doubt that someone will pay big bucks for her “Exclusive interview?” A book is practically a given. Who knows, she may get her own talk show out of this after some time has passed. If you think I’m kidding, I am not. We have made global superstars out of people who did no more than make a sex tape. A guy who slept in a cottage at OJ’s house had an incredible run of fame and fortune. Why can’t Casey get out there and say “Hey I am innocent and I have lots to say about the criminal justice system and how I was treated.” Won’t the same people who were glued to this trial watch at least the first few episodes of the “Casey Anthony Show”?
From a trial lawyer’s perspective, even though I did not see a minute of the trial, I suspect this case was lost in jury selection – most are. Prosecutors in high-profile cases must deal with the “cult of personality” that permeates society today. They need to manage folks’ expectation about what a trial is and what evidence is normally presented in circumstantial cases. Courts can only go so far. Yesterday, I blogged about Atticus Finch and his summation to the jury in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus knew what most experienced trial lawyers know, that while the court of law is important, every juror carries with them the court of their hearts and minds. And if you don’t win those over- if you don’t tell jurors what they should expect and then deliver, you are liable to be sitting there open-mouthed when an open and shut case, goes the other way. I for one ask this of all of us -let this be the last we talk about this case. Lets move on, lets not give one more minute of our attention to the folks involved in this train wreck of a case – especially the defendant