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Why the Jurors Got It Right: The Casey Anthony Verdict

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Like 99 percent of the rest of the world, I am not an expert in the Casey Anthony fiasco. How could I be? I wasn’t there. All I know is what I’ve read in the paper. But judging from the amount of rage and outcry over Ms. Anthony’s being acquitted of murdering her daughter, a lot of people seem to think that they know better than the jurors who saw the evidence, listened to the testimonies for two months, and deliberated over the results.

As the verdict was read, my Facebook feed was filled with posts announcing that people were “outraged” and “stunned.” “A murderer has gone free,” many proclaimed. The more sanguine reflected that “God will judge her for what she’s done,” although one person did hope for vengeance in the form of a throat-slitting. Today, I notice that several acquaintances have RSVPed for a “Leave the Porch Lights On for Caylee” event.

There’s a basic human desire to see justice served. After all, a child is dead, and someone, somewhere, is not being held accountable. But, you see, justice was served. Perhaps the verdict leaves us unsatisfied, but it doesn’t indicate a total breakdown of our justice system.

Those twelve jurors were asked to decide whether they believed beyond a reasonable doubt that a woman had murdered her child based on the evidence and arguments brought before them by the prosecution. That’s a tall order. The prosecution adequately demonstrated that Casey Anthony is a strange, deeply disturbed person from a dysfunctional family who was probably not the greatest parent on the block, to say the least. There’s no question that she behaved suspiciously, but the prosecutors never proved that she actually committed the crime, and in our justice system, that’s what matters. We don’t convict people based on hunches, or because they were lousy moms. Common sense may say that she probably had something to do with her child’s death, but “probably” isn’t enough. The prosecution couldn’t even explain the when, why, or how.

If there’s anything shocking about the case, it’s that a homely, lower-middle-class girl who had been mercilessly crucified in the media could actually get a fair trial.  

When it comes down to it, we weren’t there, and we can’t know. We haven’t seen the evidence, we haven’t heard the full story, and we haven’t witnessed the testimony. The only people who know all there is to know are the jurors, and for a television personality like Nancy Grace to dismiss them as “kooky” because their judgment doesn’t fit within the narrative she spent three years creating is simply despicable. She may be surprised to learn that it’s not actually her job to decide who’s guilty and who’s innocent.

It’s not our job, either. It was the job for the jurors, and they did what they thought was right. If it had been you in that box, without enough evidence to prove that the defendant had committed the crime in question, what would you have done?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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