Thursday, July 7, 2011

Character Assassination in the Media

The media circus surrounding the Casey Anthony trial this week has been crazy.  First a verdict of not guilty was returned for the murder of Caylee, but then she was found guilty of lying to law enforcement officers.  Public outrage was immediate and fierce, including my own.  But as I've read and listened to many of the comments about Ms. Anthony, it has made me stop and think about what really happened in that court room.

I know this isn't going to win me any popularity contests, but a jury of her peers heard all the evidence and were unable to convict Ms. Anthony because the prosecution could not clearly show cause of death. Let me pose a question. If you were on trial, had lied about very important issues, but were still very much innocent of murder, wouldn't YOU want a jury that was careful in it's deliberation of the facts? Or would you prefer that they be swayed by the public's opinion of you, no matter how skewed it might be?  Only God knows exactly what happened to that little girl, and if it was Casey she will get her due and it will be far worse than our justice system can mete out.

I don't really know what I believe about the case.  I actually only have the information that the media gives me so I don't think that I have enough facts to form an informed, intelligent opinion.  I understand the outrage that a small child is dead, possibly at the hands of a family member, but there is also the possibility that her death really was accidental.  It saddens me to see people picketing outside the courthouse, screaming that Ms. Anthony is a baby murderer and that she deserves to die.  This is not an election where we can pout after the candidate we supported lost, and sometimes make disparaging comments about the winner.  This wasn't a majority wins situation.  The twelve people who represent the rest of us heard the evidence and returned a verdict based on facts to which we are not necessarily privy, although many have used the limited information in the media to make uninformed opinions about her guilt.

I don't think that I am defending Casey Anthony here, at least that is not my intent.  But you cannot even argue that she's a celebrity (have you seen the pictures of her and OJ side by side yet?).  She is a person who was plucked out of obscurity and became front page news because a child was involved, and we are always more outraged when children are involved.  If I can't believe that the twelve people who returned a not guilty verdict did so with the utmost deliberation and consideration, then I have no hope for myself or anyone else who might find themselves accused of a crime they did not commit finding justice.  It would have disturbed me more had they convicted her based on the public outcry that she was guilty, instead of really looking at the evidence and facts of the case.

It's so easy to get caught up in the anger and incredulousness that a case like this invariably causes, but much harder to look beyond how we feel so we can see what really might have happened.  It's tragic enough that one life was ended and destroyed, but compounding that by destroying another one who might be innocent will not bring her back.  The old adage that two wrongs don't make a right is absolutely true here.  

Did Casey Anthony kill her daughter?  I don't have the answer to that question, but if I believe in our system of justice then I have to believe that insofar as they were able, our imperfect version of justice was served this week.  

1 comment:

Mocha with Linda said...

You make some very valid points and I heartily agree.

One thing that concerns me though, is some comments I heard that the jurors might not have necessarily used "utmost deliberation and consideration". Apparently from some interviews the jurors gave, and I did not see them, they did not represent themselves and the process well.

One can approach their jury duty as if they are reading a tabloid or an encyclopedia - they can listen to the emotional appeals of the attorneys or they can study the evidence presented. You hope it's the latter, but I think most people today are more worried about themselves and how long they've been inconvenienced by the trial than taking seriously the gravity of the situation.