The Casey Anthony verdict once again exemplifies our great criminal justice system at work. Twelve ordinary people sit and hear the facts of a case for six weeks and return a verdict that has most of us thinking, if not saying, “WTF?”. We can’t condemn the system that we so vehemently defend when the verdicts don’t go the way that we believe that they should. Or, should we be condemning a system, which is based on principles that some, such as myself, believe are inherently flawed? Principles such as society would rather let a hundred guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man. Good in theory but not when a guilty defendant gets off scot free. I wonder what the Caylee Anthonys of the world would have to say about our wonderful and fair criminal justice system, if only their voices could be heard.
Twelve ordinary people decide the fate of the accused, most probably never having set foot in a court of law, other than maybe traffic court, most having limited knowledge of criminal law, and less about the rules that govern a court proceeding. Do you really think that most jurors know or understand why a prosecutor or defense attorney may stand up and yell “objection” during a witness’s testimony? Do you think they understand the principles of trial law that compel a judge to either sustain or overrule that objection?
I remember the first few times that I testified at trials and hearings. I had no clue what the hell was going. I remember one prosecutor telling me during trial prep to pause before answering questions asked of me by the defense attorney.
“Pause,” I asked, why?”
“I may have an objection and I don’t want you blurting out answers to certain questions that we may not have to answer.”
I was a cop not a lawyer, and I knew nothing of trial law. I read up on it and asked questions, and eventually I got to the point where I knew while the question was still being asked that it was going to be objected to. Yet we expect these twelve ordinary individuals to decipher all the courtroom mumbo jumbo and listen to all types of testimony, from forensic experts to the defendant’s mother. For six weeks they sit and listen. Then a judge gives them instructions and if they find the defendant guilty, it must be beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard that in my opinion is too high and often not tenable. Trials are no longer about guilt or innocence of the accused. They’re about defense attorneys who can create the slightest sliver of doubt in a juror’s mind, a doubt that at times can be based on no credible evidence, just on an assumption that an accused wouldn’t have done this or that, or have behaved in a manner so foreign to the rest of us after committing a heinous crime. Why wasn’t there DNA evidence like there is all the time on TV? Can’t ANY doubt be considered reasonable? If the defendant is guilty, why isn’t there 100% proof? It’s about emotion rather than facts.
Is it time that we change the current standard of guilt in criminal trials from beyond a reasonable doubt to the standard used in civil cases, preponderance of the evidence? Why, in a democratic society where majority rules, do we use a different standard in criminal trials? Why must a jury’s verdict be unanimous? The Supreme Court of the United States of America isn’t held to the same unanimous standard when deciding issues that affect a larger portion of the American public in ways more profound than the murder of a little girl.
So if Casey Anthony didn’t kill her daughter, who did? Someone murdered that little girl, and since no one else will ever be charged with the crime, no one will ever be held responsible for her death. There is, and will be, no justice for Caylee Marie.