Every few years a murder case comes along that rivets the nation. It invariably involves the death of a child; nothing, it seems, elicits people’s hunger for justice more than the life of an innocent child snuffed out.
The murder case that is holding everyone’s attention right now is that involving Casey Anthony, a now-25-year-old woman accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter three years ago. Despite what seemed to be a mountain of damning evidence against her, Casey, who faced the death penalty if convicted, was acquitted on July 5. I learned of her acquittal when I signed onto Facebook that day; suddenly my newsfeed was jammed with everyone’s outrage at the verdict.
It is undoubtedly shocking to most of us in the general public that she was found not guilty. What about all the lies she told about her daughter’s disappearance? What about the fact that she didn’t even report her daughter missing for a month? What about the fact that she spent that month partying? What about the internet searches found on her computer for “chloroform” and “neck breaking”? What about the fact that Casey’s own mother reported to police that Casey’s car smelled like a dead body? What about the fact that little Caylee’s body was finally found in the woods just a short distance from the home she and her mother shared with Casey’s parents, with duct tape pasted over her nose and mouth, and a heart sticker affixed to the duct tape, which apparently was the same kind of sticker as others found in Casey’s home?
It’s almost inconceivable that Casey could have been acquitted in light of so much seeming to point to her guilt. Parallels can be drawn with the Scott Peterson murder case a few years back, in which Scott Peterson was accused of murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn son. In that case, there was also no direct forensic evidence tying him to the murder, no clearcut motive, no witnesses, and no cause of death was ever ascertained. Just a load of circumstantial evidence; but in that case, the jury convicted him and he is now on Death Row.
But Casey was acquitted. Everyone out here seems to think the jury made the wrong decision, which implies that everyone thinks they could/would have made a better, right decision about the case. We have to remember, however, that our opinions have been shaped by everything we’ve heard and read in the media, and if you are sure that you would have found Casey guilty, then you most likely had that opinion before the trial ever started and were therefore not impartial. None of us were sitting in that jury box. And presumably, the jurors selected were an impartial panel – meaning they went into the case dispassionately, without preconceived ideas about Casey or the case. That is how a fair trial is supposed to work, pursuant to The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to wit:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Accordingly, a jury is not supposed to decide based on emotions and preconceived opinions. They are supposed to carefully and impartially weigh all the evidence and testimony presented to them during the course of the trial, and make a finding based on that, and only that. And in the case of a charge of first degree murder, as in the case of Casey Anthony, a finding of guilt must be made “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Several of the jurors have apparently since spoken out indicating that they would have liked to have found Casey guilty, but the evidence just wasn’t there.
So now Casey Anthony will walk free in less than two weeks’ time. Or will she? Let’s consider what kind of life she has to look forward to:
By and large, she is viewed by most as the worst kind of villain – a child-killer. It’s not likely that she will ever be able to walk down the street or stroll through a shopping mall without being recognized; her face is now one of the most recognizable faces in the world thanks to all the media attention this case has received. She reportedly has about $300 in her prison commissary account, and that’s all the money she has in the world. She has no job waiting for her; who is going to want to hire her anyway? She may get a book and/or made-for-TV-movie deal, but there is talk now of the State of Florida pursuing her to reimburse the State for funds expended on the wild goose chase she sent authorities on in their search for Caylee because of Casey’s lies (which she has been convicted of) – so chances are, any profits she makes will go to the State of Florida as recompense. It’s doubtful she even has a home to go to when she leaves prison – now that she’s accused her father of sexual abuse and claimed that her parents were involved in Caylee’s death by conspiring to cover up an accidental drowning, it seems extremely unlikely that they will be eager to take her in and give her shelter. Plus, whatever did actually happen to Caylee – if Casey was in fact involved – will hopefully weigh on her conscience and haunt her for the rest of her days. She will likely live out her life as a pariah, and forever in danger of vigilante justice. No, it will not be a life behind bars (though, if she really is the sociopathic person so many of us believe her to be, chances are she’ll find her way into a prison cell again at some point), but it will not be a life of freedom as you and I know it, either. Frankly, if I were her, I’d be scared shitless about leaving prison in a few days.
The terrible, heart wrenching truth at the heart of the entire spectacle, though, is that an innocent toddler’s life was extinguished, and nobody will probably ever be legally held accountable for it.