I’ve only felt like this once before, and it won’t take long for you to guess when that was. O. J. Simpson’s smirking face at the reading of the verdict in his murder trial should be all the hint you need.
It has been three hours since I watched the clerk of Judge Belvin Perry’s court read the verdicts in the Casey Anthony murder trial, and I am still trying to recover.
I wish I could say I was truly surprised by the fact that this jury of Casey’s so-called peers weren’t able to conclude it was Casey who killed her tiny little daughter three years ago and threw her in a swamp. When I remove all the emotion that surrounds that visual, I have been aware all along that the prosecution, while doing a stellar job at presenting and arguing their totally circumstantial case, were not able to answer the critical question: how and where was Caylee killed?
When I sat listening to the much-maligned (including by me) Jose Baez deliver his impassioned closing argument, far more eloquently than anyone suspected he could, I realized he was driving home the one element of our capital murder trial process that could derail the conviction. Reasonable doubt.
I was so convinced of Casey’s diabolical nature, I didn’t want to allow my own doubt to break through. I dismissed the questions that nagged at me when I thought through the evidence: the can of foul air collected with brand new scientific technique; the seeming conflict between chloroform as the murder weapon and duct tape as the murder weapon; the lack of a seamless timeline, even if it was true that Caylee drowned in the family pool. Maybe I thought those were unreasonable doubts.
However that jury arrived there, they found something about which they could agree was reasonable doubt and let that selfish, immature brat of a woman off, scot free. She will more than likely be sentenced to time served for the four counts of lying to the police for which she was convicted. She will more than likely join the rest of us as a citizen free to walk the streets of Orlando (if she dares) with no chance of ever being tried again for the death of that precious child.
I think I agree with Jose Baez, who, during the post-trial press conference, said he believes the reason for the outcome is the ill-advised use of the death penalty in this country. “Murder is wrong, no matter who commits it,” he said, or something close to it. I happen to agree with him on that, too.
We will never know for sure, but I keep wondering what the verdict might have been if the words “death penalty” had never been associated with this trial. Despite all his efforts, the judge was not successful in removing the specter of death from the lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. I think the jury overreacted to the idea that this young, tiny and obviously troubled woman could be killed for what she had done.
By the way, on the subject of “peers.” The only jury of Casey Anthony’s true peers would have been made up of sociopaths who were permanently damaged and unable to find a conscience. I have thought for many years that our jury system is broken and irreparable.