Home > Uncategorized > Casey Anthony and the Triumph of Due Process

Casey Anthony and the Triumph of Due Process

So it’s too late for me to enter into a lengthy discourse on the death penalty, but in light of the resolution of a major capital case earlier today (the Casey Anthony case), I thought I’d share my views briefly on that case.

 

Admittedly, I haven’t looked exhaustively into the record, nor did I religiously follow the case, as did some.  But here are the relevant facts, in my view:  No forensic evidence, no eye-witnesses.  All the evidence presented by the prosecution was circumstantial, albeit substantially so, but no smoking gun was found, no plausible narrative advanced.  Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of factors that suggest that Casey Anthony did murder her daughter, but none offer proof.  We live in a society in which individuals are truly innocent until proven guilty.  It is not the case that 100% certainty is required for conviction, and thus a high standard, reasonable doubt, must be met before we as a society ought to willfully condemn a potentially innocent person.

Lots of evidence suggested that Casey Anthony committed murder, but that was not proven.  What was proven was that Miss Anthony is incredibly unstable, having had a traumatic past, and that she is likely in need of help.  It was proven that she was a bad parent, and possibly that she is a bad person.  These findings, while admittedly damning for her personally, do not constitute murder; it is not illegal to be a bad person, nor is it illegal to be a bad parent.  In a case surrounded by media attention and made into a public spectacle, the twelve jurors today resisted the pressures of the popular rumor mill, recognized their duty under the law, and fulfilled their obligations to the American justice system.  Say what you will of Casey Anthony:  she is not guilty of murder.

 

-Evan Goldstein ’12

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. swimmingfish001
    July 6, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Hello hello again —
    I just want to question the phrases “high standard” and “reasonable doubt” for a moment. These phrases aren’t yours, but I’m wondering how they should be used in this case’s context. Does a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence not give a reasonable doubt? The evidence all pointed toward the same thing — that Anthony was quite possibly the murderer — but she was acquitted because there was no solid evidence. The evidence stirred a doubt in the public’s mind. I wonder then how exactly the phrase is interpreted in a legal context — it seems to me that jurors are inclined not to make that leap of faith, to make that doubt, because they prefer to err on the side of caution.

  2. July 6, 2011 at 4:36 am

    If all evidence is circumstantial (meaning, nobody saw her committing murder, nobody has subsequently proved that she committed murder, there’s no evidence that she did commit murder), there is reasonable doubt. I’m not sure of the precise origins of the term or its historical implications, but it seems fairly straightforward: If there is some doubt, some area in which the prosecution has not proved its case, the defense wins. It’s also worth noting that the jury was unanimous; it wasn’t hung (ie, all 12 decided she was not guilty).

  3. July 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    So, this trial actually got me thinking about the judicial system as a whole, specifically the system of appeals. One of the main pillars of the justice system is equality and fairness. I think we can say pretty clearly that affording an opportunity to one party but not to another without good justification is inherently unequal, right? Right. However, that lack of equal opportunity clearly happens in the appeals system. I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that had the verdict gone the other way, the defense would have appealed the verdict, but the prosecution doesn’t have that opportunity. So, in order to make the system more equal, i think that we should either give the prosecution the same opportunity to appeal as the defense, or that we should limit appeals to cases in which the judge believes that there is a real possibility that the verdict might change–maybe in light of new evidence, or a witness who just agreed to testify.

    Does that make any sense? I do a better job explaining it in person…

    Also, I agree that there was reasonable doubt, and so she shouldn’t have been convicted, but I still think she did it XD

    • July 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      The prosecution can’t appeal a verdict? I’m pretty sure they can, by virtue of the fact that the Supreme Court hears cases that are “United States vs X”. I’ll check though. You do raise an interesting point about the justice system, though; perhaps post something on your blog fleshing out these ideas

      Sent from my iPhone

    • July 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Just checked, and you’re right, the prosecution cannot appeal. I think that makes sense, though; double jeopardy protection is important as a safeguard of procedural due process.

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. July 8, 2011 at 4:48 am

    Casey Anthony will not go unpunished; I personally think that the media scrutiny and subsequent humiliation that the Anthony family has endured has in itself been a relatively substantial punishment. An already dysfunctional family became a publicly dysfunctional family, and although Casey Anthony will not be behind bars or dead as some had wished, her life and the life of her family will not be the same.
    I think that double jeopardy protection and appeals are important to have in terms of protecting the rights of those being tried, but in some cases it seems like these factors may impede arriving at a just verdict. Since in this case a conviction would result in a long sentence or possibly death, it seems fair that the prosecution should need to be meticulous. At the same time, as the provided evidence pointed to Casey having perpetrated the murder of her daughter, is it fair to young Caylee that Casey might have walked away innocent after killing her own daughter?

    • July 8, 2011 at 4:56 am

      I think there’s a difference between innocence and lack of guilt. One of the jurors said publicly that nobody thought she was innocent; they just thought the prosecution hadn’t proved it’s case, thus failing to surmount the presumption of innocence that the defense always has. We also need to put this in perspective: the principles you advocate may work in one case (though I would still hold that it would be unjust to retry Casey Anthony, or to lower the burden of proof from reasonable doubt), but as a society, we need to promulgate systemic principles of justice. We can’t just pick and chose the cases where procedural due process is upheld; we have to be consistent. Perhaps you disagree with one verdict or another, but surely you would agree that, on the margins, it is preferable to live in a society with a presumption of innocence and strong procedural safeguards than one without, even if that occasionally leads to verdicts that we don’t like (of which, I contend, the Anthony verdict should not be one).

      Sent from my iPhone

      • swimmingfish001
        July 8, 2011 at 5:15 am

        I think law exists so that we can have a systemic way of quickly determining right from wrong. But if the lawmakers made the laws based on codes of conduct that society finds acceptable, why can’t we bypass law, which i think most, if not all, of us would agree is inadequate in this case, and go back to the basic code? I think that anyone should be punished if he does wrong, and if the law impedes us from doing so, we should bypass it. After all, the system was made by humans for humans, and all cases are different.
        Bypassing laws of course slows everything down, so I would argue that laws should be flexible especially in cases like these. Most of the public and all of the jurors did not think Anthony is innocent, but we are all held back because of the laws we made. Nonsensical that we should bind ourselves with our own constructs and thereby create problems for ourselves.

      • July 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

        I’m not sure what you mean by basic. Are you proposing that we administer justice in the absence of a formal justice system? That would be unworkable, because it wouldn’t have the legitimate power to coerce in the same way that courts can. I’m also a little bit confused by the implication that our laws aren’t made by humans. I really don’t think that it’s true that we have this really radical justice system that makes it impossible to convict criminals; if anything, it’s the other way around. Show me one piece of evidence that proves Casey Anthony’s guilt; you can’t. There is none. That’s why she was acquitted, because her guilt was not proven. Maybe people think she’s guilty, but if I managed to convince the entire country that you committed a crime, that wouldn’t make you guilty. If you think that it’s bad to live in a system where you have to be proven guilty to be convicted, I’m afraid that the nations of the world will not be of much help to you.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • July 8, 2011 at 11:39 am

        I completely reject the idea that law is inadequate in this case. That assumes guilt, and if we were to adjudicate guilt and innocence on the basis of popular opinion, our justice system would be absolutely meaningless.

        Sent from my iPhone

  5. July 8, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I agree, I did not mean to imply that I would prefer a system in which innocence and lack of guilt are equated. Because all contingencies cannot be addressed it’s impossible to ‘pick and chose’ like you said. I just think that it’s worth considering the validity of the presumption of innocence in certain cases.

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