Not Guilty is Not Innocent: The Casey Anthony Verdict

Not Guilty is Not Innocent: The Casey Anthony Verdict

Earlier today, a jury declared Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee. Folks outside the courtroom and many legal analysts were stunned. Frankly, I was too. I also happened to be just as stunned by the amount of righteous indignation the television analysts and citizenry showed. It was not a surprise to me, but it left me quaking in my boots.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty of every count except for four misdemeanors relating to providing false information to investigators. In other words, the jury absolved her, legally, of responsibility for the death of her daughter Caylee. A friend of mine commented that the Florida fiasco in the 2000 election gave America President George W. Bush and that “now you [Floridians] let a baby killer go.”

My friends’ quip about Florida 2000 and this trial’s outcome actually made me chuckle. Nevertheless, the comment was actually quite disturbing and I feel it represents much of what I saw on the television in post-verdict coverage.

I noted to my friend that prosecutors must prove charges “beyond a reasonable doubt” and that they brought capital murder charges against Casey Anthony while their case did not contain any slam-dunk evidence of a premeditated murder. The prosecution’s case certainly made Casey look like a terrible mother who had little patience for her daughter and little demonstrable parenting skills, but that is no evidence of purposeful neglect or abuse, a charge for which the jury also found her not guilty. Neglect or abuse is also not always technically murder, even when it leads to the death of a child.

What is puzzling to me from this case is the fact that the jury not only did not convict Casey on lesser included counts of second degree murder, third degree felony murder, and manslaughter. Instead, they found Casey not guilty. An important distinction arises here. Casey was found not guilty of the counts charged against her in an indictment. She was not found innocent. The public presumption will probably always be that this jury blew it, but that is not necessarily the case. If anything, the prosecution blew it and along with it, any chance of justice for Caylee through the legal system.

The prosecution did include lesser counts for the jury to consider, but in my armchair legal experience, which consists of legal dramas on television and limited non-fiction reading, the prosecution blew it by not trying to prove the lesser included counts. From my seat, the prosecution appeared to bet the house on the first degree murder charge. It is quite possible that jury members, who did not immediately speak to the media, felt that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey committed first degree murder and that left with little else to go on, they could not find Casey guilty of the lesser included counts. Had the prosecution presented the case in a bottom up fashion, the outcome very well may have been different, but in their quest to prove a capital murder, the prosecution’s case felt like a disjointed story highlighted by an antihero, Casey Marie Anthony. Instead, the prosecution should have presented events in a fact-and-comment manner: here is a fact (i.e. child is missing), here is the reasoning as to motive or the science behind the fact, here is a witness. Every trial includes this kind of evidence presentation, but the prosecution case felt like they tried to present innuendo (or even salacious facts or details), witness testimony, and then throwing the science on at the end and of course, this was science that was questionable at best because it had been untested in American courtrooms before.

The science, while not necessarily “junk science” or “fantasy science” must have been unconvincing to jurors even with the prosecutions portrayal of Casey as a bad mother. A forensic scientist, Lawrence Kobilinsky, who worked on the defense team said on CNN’s AC 360 that in his mind, the most questionable part of the science was that it was not “reliable.” Kobilinsky said the science was not reliable due the fact that it was so new that it had faced no peer review process across the scientific community. Jeff Toobin, CNN legal analyst, said on The Situation Room that the closing statement of Anthony's may have led the jury to consider the evidence of "murder" and not the "atmospherics" of bad parenting, which is a lot of what the the prosecution presented in its non-police and non-scientific witnesses.

I believe that a parent not loving a child is neglect. However, not loving a child is not legal neglect or abuse and I, personally, am not sure that Casey Anthony loved her child as a parent. Does that make her a bad parent? Maybe. Does that make her abusive? Not necessarily. Does it mean she killed her child? No.

Why would a parent not love his or her own child? Psychologists and psychiatrists could speculate on many reasons, and a lot that would make sense logically, even if they did not emotionally. Casey Anthony’s party girl actions after her daughter went missing certainly did not help public perception of her as a mother, or as a defendant. Again, I want to reiterate that being a bad mother, even a bad person, does not make one a murder.

I believe it is also important to reiterate that the jury finding Casey not guilty does not necessarily mean that the jurors believe she is absolved of any or all responsibility in the disappearance and death of her daughter. It is also important to note that the not guilty findings do not necessarily mean that the jury believed the theory of the defense that Caylee died in a drowning accident. These are important distinctions and the kind of distinctions that jurors should be able to make when considering that prosecutors must prove things beyond a reasonable doubt.

Casey Anthony is a deeply disturbed person, and in my mind, someone who was unfit to be a mother. She may be unfit to roam society-at-large. That does not make her a murder. It does not mean she is innocent as it relates to the death of her daughter. I am glad that in this instance, the American justice system has been able to make these distinctions. Had the prosecution presented evidence in a different way or presented different charges, Casey may well have been convicted of more than lying to investigators. Whether such hypothetical scenarios would satisfy commentators such as Nancy Grace is unknown, but it is something to consider when thinking about this case.

Something else to think about is what the state’s attorney, Lawson Lamar, said in a press conference after the announcement of the verdict. He said that every child murder is “no less horrible and needless” than the one of Caylee Anthony. He also said that the difference between this case and many others is that media does not cover them with such zeal. He said of the approximately 140 pending murder cases in his office in Orange County, Florida, eleven are of children. Eleven children we should be thinking about and fighting for in order to achieve a semblance of justice. The important thing is not that Casey Anthony may be a free person sometime soon, since the community and media have vilified her tremendously, justly or unjustly, to the point that she will most likely become nothing more than an eccentric hermit. The most important take away is that child murders in America and around the world are not “rare…today.” What can we as a society do to make them rare?

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  • fb_avatar

    So I bet CBS is to busy now fighting over to get they rating up, with an exclusive story,
    This monster should never be bother, be ignored, left alone with her own demons.
    But I'm sure is all about money ratings, so her face will be in mags, tv shows, movies, books about how did I kill my baby, etc...
    Is very revolting all this.

    I have 2 children, and I live for them, I cant imagine my life without them.

    Whenever I see you on tv, or clothes line, or perfume, whatever I will spit on it.

    Just so you know, you sold your life to the devil, and now you will have whatever you want.
    So go and enjoy, because is really short moments.

    I hope you can't ever get pregnant again. Don't try to prove that you're mother. Because you're just a monster.
    How can my little one is missing and I'm go party and drug me up, after almost 32 days if your mother didn't report to the police no one would ever known. That's why today The USA made a really big mistake.
    But whatever you make here you will pay.

  • In reply to Sheyla Hershey:

    Sheyla, you are more than right, I totally agree with you! Casey Anthony is a sick b**** & a baby killer of her own child.. However, Nancy Grace does take things too far a lot, and is a drama queen, ha.. But then again she's just media herself. How could you do that to your own child? A child is the best thing anyone could ever be given & because you wanna be a party whore & always get drugged up you can't settle down & do what's right like a normal human being & take care of your own child? your own fleshin blood! Something you carried in your body for almost 10 months.. It's ridicoulus how selfish some people can be. She was "responsible" enough to spread her whorish legs without protection & get pregnant, she should have been responsible enough to be a caregiver for her child too. Deborah, idk who you are & you don't know me, everyone has their own opinion & is entilted to it, but even the Jurors & the people that were in the trial/court, said that the never said Casey Anthony is Innocent. The verdict was just not guilty. Which I believe is 100% true. If Casey Anthony did not physically murder her own child, she sure in the hell had something to do with the dissappearence of her child which lead to the death of Caylee Anthony. If she didn't have ANYTHING to do with the dissappearance & or death of Caylee Anthony, then why would she wait 30 some odd days to report her own child missing to authorities..? Oh wait, she had to stuff her own daughters body in the trunk of HER car & wait til she found somewhere to dump her baby.. SICK! JUST SICK! It just doesn't make sense at all! Nothing lines up.. & if you're really defending Casey Anthony & considering her completely 100% innocent, you must be just as sick as she is! I'm highly upset with the judicial system, they'll put someone who in prison for 25+ years for robbery, but they'll let this baby killing bitch go free after 3 years.. now there is no justice for baby Caylee. Casey Anthony deserves to rot in hell!

    R.I.P Caylee <3

  • In reply to Sheyla Hershey:

    I think that you first have to review all the evidence and all the Anthony's stories. I am also a parent and at first thought that she was guilty thanks to the media and only putting their own opinions out there. I believe shes innocent after doing a lot of research and even if she was not innocent, she was not proven guilty so everyone needs to leave it alone and let her remake her life. God will take care of her if shes guilty.

  • fb_avatar

    So I bet CBS is to busy now fighting over to get they rating up, with an exclusive story,
    This monster should never be bother, be ignored, left alone with her own demons.
    But I'm sure is all about money ratings, so her face will be in mags, tv shows, movies, books about how did I kill my baby, etc...
    Is very revolting all this.

    I have 2 children, and I live for them, I cant imagine my life without them.

    Whenever I see you on tv, or clothes line, or perfume, whatever I will spit on it.

    Just so you know, you sold your life to the devil, and now you will have whatever you want.
    So go and enjoy, because is really short moments.

    I hope you can't ever get pregnant again. Don't try to prove that you're mother. Because you're just a monster.
    How can my little one is missing and I'm go party and drug me up, after almost 32 days if your mother didn't report to the police no one would ever known. That's why today The USA made a really big mistake.
    But whatever you make here you will pay.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Sheyla Hershey:

    Guess your one of them that just did not watch the trial. Media got to you right?? What a shame.

  • fb_avatar

    Just wanted to say that Nancy Grace from Headlines News needs to give it a rest. She forced her GUILTY vertict onto the public for 3 years now. And today she was proven wrong. This entire trial was nothing but a MEDIA AMBUSH from day one. What ever happened to "Innocent until proven Guilty" Opps, we forgot the Media has the right to convict someone first! And then when they turn out to be wrong they can not face up to it. These 12 Juror's spent all their time inside the courtroom listening to the facts given about this trial and the Media has the right to force a GUILTY VERDICT DOWN THE PUBLIC'S THROAT. There are many many people out there that do not have the time to watch every single detail that goes on in the courtroom everyday of a trial and they depend of the Media for information. And instead of just reporting the day to day proceeding they jump in and go out into their own little world of what they beleive and them alone. GUILTY GUILTY GULITY. With no right at all. NONE They are not the Jury. They are not the Judge and they are not GOD. Someone should stop this way that the Media takes off and runs with their opinion and SHOVES IT DOWN AMERICA'S THROAT. How many lives have they affected by this manor. This is just unspeakable!!!! Shame on you Nancy Grace and shame on all the Media who display this type of behavior. P.S. DEFENSE DID DO A TERRIFIC JOB how about that? ANYONE IN THE MEDIA SAY THAT YET? COME ON YOU CAN DO IT. REPEAT AFTER ME. DEFENSE DID A GREAT JOB IN THIS CASE.

  • fb_avatar

    Those who continue to persecute and malign Ms. casey are the LD with arms extending, fingers pointing, mouths wide opening and evil proclivities protruding.

    Editor's note: Broken and apparently extraneous links were removed from this comment.

  • The American 'justice' system is a shambles.

  • And when twelve people who are so dumb they can't get excused from jury duty get to sit on cases like this, that just says it all ...

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