Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Casey Anthony verdict: "This is a court of law, not a court of justice"

Casey Anthony and her lawyer after the July 5 "not guilty" verdict. Photo: AP via Yahoo!'s Shine.
I was horrified when 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was in the news back in 2008. I'd "lost" my youngest daughter in a museum before, though it was only for a few minutes, and my heart went out to both mother and child. Caylee had been missing for 31 days before her mother, Casey Anthony, reported her disappearance; soon after, the mother was arrested for murder. A few months after that, the toddler's skeletal remains, with duct tape over the nose and mouth, were found in the woods near her grandparents' house, where the little girl and her mother both lived.

The details are even worse, so I won't go into them here. But the most damning evidence against Casey Anthony was the fact that she lied about her toddler's whereabouts for weeks, and spent her time partying instead of searching for her daughter.
On Tuesday, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, manslaughter, and child abuse. The 7-woman, 5-man jury in Florida convicted her only on four misdemeanor counts of lying to law enforcement, which has a maximum sentence of a year in jail for each count. Given that she's been locked up since late 2008, it's possible that tomorrow the judge will sentence her to time served—meaning that she'll walk away a free woman instead of facing the death penalty or life in prison.

People all over the country responded to the verdict with disgust, disbelief, and anger. I've spent this week looking over the case and pouring over the details, and I have to admit: I'm disgusted, too. But still, the not-guilty verdict is right, even if it feels horribly wrong. Over at, I explain why:

The outrage over the death of a little girl is understandable (to say the least), but it's easy to forget that Casey Anthony wasn't on trial for knowing what happened to her 2-year-old daughter. She was on trial for premeditated murder. And though there was plenty of logical, circumstantial evidence that pointed to her guilt, there was no concrete, forensic evidence that tied her to the crime. To put it another way: In spite of the phone calls, the diary entries, the lies, the non-existent nanny, the duct tape on the body, the computer searches for chloroform, and the evidence found in Anthony's car, the prosecution couldn't prove that Anthony was the one who killed Caylee, or that she wasn't instead covering up for the person who did.

The quote in the title of my post has been attributed to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and it seems right for this case. The jury followed the letter of the law, even if those of us on the sidelines feel that justice wasn't served. And isn't our court system supposed to be about the law and the presumption of innocence, even when morals, and possibly common sense, seem to say otherwise?

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