I have to assume that most of us that remain in Florida during the "off season" were not obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial.
Nonetheless, almost immediately after the verdict, the social media (characterized by numerous comments on my Facebook page) was buzzing with outrage. The mainstream media (which certainly contributed to the almost surreal and sensationalistic circus atmosphere that has surrounded this case for almost three years) quickly marched out its various "experts" to weigh in on the jury’s decision and presented numerous "persons in the street" opinions for public consumption.
Almost lost among the emotional chatter are a few very important points that form the basis of our country’s criminal justice system:
- A defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The defendant walks into the courtroom with a presumption that she did not commit the crimes with which she is charged.
- The State (represented by the prosecution) must establish the defendant’s guilt and must do so "beyond a reasonable doubt". This "burden of proof" is a very heavy burden–to use a sports analogy, the prosecution has to do much more than just carry the football across the 50 yard-line–that football has to get at least into the range of a "chip shot" field goal and the prosecution most probably has to put itself into a "1st and goal" position to meet that extremely high standard.
- In addition, the fact that the defendant chooses not to testify at the trial on her behalf cannot be held against her by the jury in its deliberations. Because the defendant is presumed innocent and the State has the burden of proving her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant need not present any evidence at all if she (or her defense team) so chooses.
It’s a credit to our legal system that criminal defendants are tried before a jury of their peers rather than in the "court of public opinion". When all was said and done, Casey Anthony’s fate rested in the hands of twelve individuals who were able to focus on the testimony and other evidence presented and were not subjected to the ceaseless barrage of opinion and speculation from every corner of the internet and mainstream media.
In the long run, those jurors (and the alternate jurors) are the only "heroes" in this saga. Regardless of what any of believe or think we "know" about the Anthony family and what really happened to Caylee Anthony, those jurors gave up several months of their lives for minimal compensation and undertook one of the most trying and important responsibilities that all American citizens share–and it was these twelve jurors, and not any "expert," or majority vote from the public at large, that decided whether the State had met its burden of proof on each of the various charges.
Those of my blog readers that have served on a jury have an idea of the difficulties these jurors faced in making their determinations. Each of these individuals deserves our gratitude for their commitment to our state and our criminal justice system.
We’ll get back to ROC matters in my next blog entry.