BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – There was general public outrage over the verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial with most of that outrage directed at the jury which failed to convict Casey of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee and instead convicted her of, I believe, littering.
No, wait. It wasn’t littering. The jury convicted her of lying to police. It might have well been littering since the only real evidence produced at trial was that the poor child had been double bagged like garbage and chucked off the side of a road into the woods.
The people who are always shocked and angered over apparently bizarre jury verdicts are people who have never sat on juries. If they had sat on a jury they would understand that it’s amazing that 12 people who have never met before and have been forced together out of the blue to rule on another human being’s life can reach any verdict at all.
You always hear these people brag about how they get out of jury service as if that is something to be proud of. To me, that’s sort of like bragging about how you didn’t dial 911 after seeing some punk steal an old lady’s purse or bragging that you didn’t take notice of the license plate number of a car screeching away from a hit-and-run incident. (“Yeah, man, I get outta contributing to civil society all the time. Yesterday, I lied to a judge to get outta jury duty! Piece a cake!”)
It’s called “jury duty” because it’s a DUTY; a duty for citizens to play a vital role in maintaining social order. It’s also a unique chance to get an inside look at how one of the three branches of government really works while getting free lunches and choice parking near the courthouse. But jury duty is not always pretty. Despite having been a newspaper court reporter for years, I managed to get on at least two juries.
It wasn’t easy. In criminal cases, attorneys on both sides like to kick off anyone they think is a smarty-pants who understands the way court works. They want pliable jurors who will keep an open mind throughout the proceeding right up until they tell them what to think. That’s what makes being a juror so much fun, suddenly finding out that something like gravity is merely a theory and night does not necessarily follow day.
The Casey Anthony trial was billed as the “Trial of the Century,” which it likely was since we are only about a tenth of the way into the present century. (On January 3, 2000 the “Trial of the Century” was a New Jersey shoplifting case.)
I enjoy watching big trials on television just to see how wrong highly paid legal analysts and bizarrely coiffed trial show hosts can be. For the record, they were a hundred percent wrong in the Anthony trial. Everyone from Geraldo Rivera to Jeffrey Toobin to Nancy Grace already had a nice little electric chair picked out for Casey before the jury took its first potty break.
After the jury acquitted Casey Anthony on the major murder counts, I thought the apoplectic Nancy Grace was going to break into the Orange County Jail and throttle Ms. Anthony with a microphone chord. I must say that I can happily go through the rest of this century without seeing Nancy Grace or her hair again.
If you’ve never seen Nancy Grace’s hair, it’s something to behold, a cross between a blond fur crash helmet and spider hatchery. Her hair and disturbing excitability is only rivaled by that of Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of the strangely named cable show “Issues.” The main issue seems to be whether Miss Jane is wearing a wig or an aardvark on her head.
I won’t go into what happened in the trial because most of it was incomprehensible. By my count, Casey’s mother, father and brother took the stand 47 times, each testifying alternately for the defense, prosecution and, I believe, on the theory of evolution as argued by Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.
While showering the television camera lens with spittle the most anti-Casey Anthony commentators sometimes took a breath to remind viewers that they had to consider a criminal defendant innocent until proven guilty. This fiction disturbingly has found root throughout country.
The truth is that only the jury has to consider a defendant innocent until proven guilty. The First Amendment of the Constitution allows the rest of us to consider a criminal defendant any old thing we want: guilty, not guilty, semi-guilty, silly, ugly … you name it.
The other thing that just about every commentator got wrong is that because of the legal concept of “double jeopardy” Casey Anthony will never be held responsible for her daughter’s death. She won’t. She could be sued in civil court by like O.J. Simpson.
And the Florida U.S. Attorney can criminally indict her for violating her daughter’s federal civil rights. This route to justice has been used before, like the case of Rodney King.
Four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in their state criminal trial but two were convicted in a federal civil rights trial and went to prison.
After little Caylee’s disappearance, Casey Anthony had the Italian phrase “Bella Vita” tattooed on her left shoulder. She better keep looking over that shoulder because it may not be a “beautiful life” for her just yet.