A Nation of Laws

There has been a ton of chatter on Facebook, in blogs and on Twitter regarding the acquittal of Casey Anthony this week.  Honestly, I think it fitting that the verdict comes on the heels of the Fourth of July.  Casey Anthony was acquitted in a process that began over 200 years ago.

Our adversarial system of justice is the best in the world here in the US.  Now, the "law-and-order" types (of which I am one) will bemoan all the criminals getting off and all the convicted felons getting out of jail because they are overcrowded, or the cable is on the fritz, or some other liberal weenie nonsense.  Those on the other end of the spectrum feel we are wasting resources prosecuting "victim-less" crimes and that the right-wing nut job government has run amok with warrantless wiretaps and naked body scanners at the airport.

People question how a defense attorney can defend a "monster" like Casey Anthony.  But the hard fact of the matter is this: defense attorneys like the ones who defended her, or John Gotti, or John Wayne Gacey or anyone else play a vital role in our society: they keep the government honest.

A few years ago I was selected for jury duty and seated in a trial.  (a duty which I am honored to carry out, by the way.)  A young man was on trial for raping his former girlfriend and, to put it in the vernacular, "babymomma."  The trial lasted two days.  The defense attorney was clever and somewhat theatrical.  There were many witnesses who testified for the government. The girl was sympathetic, the defendant, not so much.

We returned a "Not guilty" verdict in less than half an hour.  The prosecutor had simply failed to do one thing: extinguish any reasonable doubt.  And we must remember that is the standard.  We might think that Casey Anthony absolutely did terrible things to that sweet little girl.  We might believe in our hearts that she is a monster, that she took the easy way out to continue her party-filled lifestyle.  We might hate her.  But unless we can - dispassionately - look at the evidence and conclude that there is no other way this possibly might have happened, no matter how unlikely, then the jury did the right thing.

The prosecutor in this case did a bad job.  The government experts couldn't even agree on how Caylee had died.  There was compelling circumstantial evidence, but not a single fingerprint or strand of DNA.  There was chloroform, but no idea or explanation of why it was relevant.  In this "CSI" era, we need to do better.

The same law that protects Casey Anthony, the law that favors defendants, the law that require prosecutors do more than simply make sense - that law protects you and me better than any army. And it gives us confidence that - for the most part - those who are convicted are, in fact, guilty.

No matter what you see on TV, trials like this are not about justice for the victim. They are not about morality; they are about law.  Or as Scottish writer William McIlcanney said, "Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice?  It's what we have because we cannot have justice."

Justice is God's bailiwick.  Caylee will receive her justice some day.  So will Casey.  I leave that in His good hands.


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