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Thursday, July 07, 2011

All this blogger is gonna say about the Casey Anthony murder trial

Just three things:

First, I admit that I didn't follow this trial at all up until Tuesday when the verdict was reached and announced. When that happened it was darn near impossible to read anything but about it. So I took it upon myself to study the case and now that some of the jurors have broken their anonymity and begun talking about it...

I have to say that the jurors reached the best verdict that they possibly could. And when some of them say that it anguished them that this was their verdict, I have to take them at their word.

Do I believe that Casey Anthony murdered her 2-year old daughter Caylee Anthony? My answer would be "Is there anybody who seriously believes that O.J. didn't do it?"

But in our legal system, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Not the defendant to prove his or her innocence. And in the end, based on the evidence produced by the prosecutors, the jury could not find that Casey Anthony was indeed guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

Nobody should be angry at the jury. And their verdict must be honored and respected. Don't blame the jurors. They were only doing their job.

Second: this entire case demonstrated something that I have believed for years. That being: television cameras DO NOT BELONG in a court of law.

I've sat as a spectator in a courtroom before on numerous occasions. I've watched court proceedings on television. And the two couldn't be more different than night and day. It was the Blanche Taylor Moore trial back in 1990 that first popped the red flag, even though I was just a high school junior. Moore, on trial for murdering a whole buncha men in her life with arsenic, was just about the biggest trial this state had seen in a heap o' years. The publicity was so great that the venue was moved from Alamance County (where Moore resided) to Forsyth County. TV cameras were rolling in the courtroom. Moore was convicted and sentenced to death (she's still on death row today) and nobody thought she'd get off. But even so: the spectacle of the lead prosecutor crying in open court - along with numerous other incidents - was ridiculous. It was posturing before the cameras and everyone knew it.

Then came the O.J. Simpson trial. 'Nuff said.

It's like this: the presence of a camera in any situation... it alters the situation. The thing about how observing a thing changes that thing? It's no more true than in human events... and perhaps in no greater severity than in a courtroom during a high-profile murder trial.

Look, I'm not saying that trials shouldn't be public. They absolutely must be. Public trial is a safeguard of both due process and the defendant's rights.

A public trial is not a sideshow for our gawking pleasure. And that is what live television cameras turned the O.J. Simpson trial into and now the Casey Anthony trial.

The purpose of a trial in criminal court of law is to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Throw a TV camera into the room and psychologically everyone involved in the trial realizes that they're part of a show in addition to a legal proceeding. Leave it to human nature to choose which one is inclined to get the bigger priority.

See what I'm getting at?

The prosecutors knew that this would be a highly publicized murder trial (for all the wrong reasons, but I digress...). The responsible thing would have been to insist upon no television cameras at all, and to petition that request to the judge in the interest of a fair and complete hearing. Then the prosecutors would have been free to focus on the trial and not the presence of the cameras.

Think I'm wrong? That's at least two murder trials watched on live television by millions of people. Each of them resulted in verdicts of "not guilty", in defiance of what was apparently an incredible amount of evidence indicating otherwise.

It can be hard to say no to a television camera when it's aimed at you. But sometimes, it's for the best.

And third...

If Casey Anthony murdered her child, there will be justice. Of that, I have no doubt.

I thought the same thing when Simpson was found not guilty. I remember telling a friend at the time, "He won't get away. Don't worry. Maybe in ways that we'll never see or ever know, O.J. will be punished for what he did."

Today O.J. Simpson is sitting in a prison in Nevada, stemming from a crime completely unrelated to the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. But still, whenever I think of Simpson going free that fall day in 1995 and where he is now...

God is not mocked. And what justice escapes our meager human wisdom and understanding, He will not and can not be loathe to let evade from His sight.

If Casey Anthony killed her daughter, she will be brought to a reckoning. Maybe not to our immediate satisfaction...

...but that will be a matter left between her and the highest Judge of all.


Jaime said...

Very well said. And I have to say Blanche Moore is the reason we can not buy good ant killer anymore.

Chris Knight said...

The Blanche Moore case was... good lord...

So her boyfriend survived the highest amount of arsenic ever recorded in a person who survived the poisoning. Then people began wondering about her father and her late husband and a bunch of other men who died painfully. And then the caskets started getting exhumed from the cemeteries...

Mind ya, Blanche Moore was still walking around a free woman while all of this was going on. And she was still free when the jokes were going around...

Biscuitville in Burlington advertised "Blanche Biscuits" one Saturday morning (seriously).

People saying that Pine View Cemetery should be renamed "Blanche Moore Dump Site".

What do you call dinner with Blanche? "The last supper".

And my personal favorite...

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, if he hadn't ate with Blanche he would still be with us."

North Carolina never saw a case like it. And I hope and pray we don't have anything like it again!

(But who am I kidding? Blanche Moore and then Velma Barfield before her: the official state stage play should be "Arsenic and Old Lace" :-P)

Scott Bradford said...

How about this: TV cameras allowed in the courtroom, but the video is embargoed and cannot be broadcast until after the verdict is delivered by the jury.

I think that allowing video recording -- even requiring it -- is good because, as you point out, public trials are a safeguard for defendants' rights. I agree that the hyperactive media attention is counterproductive though.

Allowing the taping but keeping it under-wraps until the trial is over is a compromise I'd personally be more happy with than a blanket camera prohibition.

Chris Knight said...

"How about this: TV cameras allowed in the courtroom, but the video is embargoed and cannot be broadcast until after the verdict is delivered by the jury... Allowing the taping but keeping it under-wraps until the trial is over is a compromise I'd personally be more happy with than a blanket camera prohibition."

This has got to be one of the best and most thoughtful ideas that I have ever heard in recent memory pertaining to the process of law.

I would be totally cool with this. The cameras wouldn't even need to be obvious either: just a few high-def webcams here and there around the courtroom, sending their feed to tape or hard drive or whatever. And the footage NOT being released until after the proceedings are wrapped up.

This is a brilliant concept that you've suggested and I'm gonna sincerely pray that it becomes a reality sooner than later! :-)