The verdict in Casey Anthony's murder trial was a bombshell dropped on the world. The shock waves of the blast continue to reverberate in the brain. I myself feel as if I've been shot in the head. A miscarriage of justice is always troubling, but the exoneration of a sociopath who killed her two-year old daughter is profoundly disquieting. The little girl was obviously an impediment to Anthony's riotous social life, or bella vita (the words which she had tattooed on her shoulder following the child's disappearance).
The job of a juror in any trial is to evaluate evidence. One way to go about doing that involves judging the credibility of those before the court. Anthony had no credibility then and none now. She is a practiced liar. She lied to everyone about her daughter's absence. The various explanations she gave her parents concerning why they could not speak with Caylee were as follows: (a) the little girl was with her nanny, (b) she and Caylee were staying with Anthony's wealthy boyfriend in Jacksonville, Florida, and (c) they were visiting the nanny who had supposedly been hospitalized after an auto mishap.
The defendant also attempted to deceive the police by maintaining (a) that she was employed at Universal Studios, (b) that she had left Caylee with a babysitter when Caylee had disappeared, (c) that she had informed two associate employees of her daughter's disappearance, and (d) that she had actually spoken to the little girl on July 15, 2008.
Anthony likewise repeatedly misled her associates by telling them that Caylee was with babysitters or somewhere else she wasn't.
Throughout her arrest and trial, Anthony demonstrated little feeling for anyone except herself. She showed a numbing dearth of emotion at times about the shameful circumstances of her daughter's death. She also spoke from the jail house to her mother in a manner that would make a sailor blush. Respect for Caylee's memory or for her mother? Not hardly.
So am I exaggerating to describe this beast as a sociopath? Not a bit. She has a grandiose sense of herself (i.e., feels entitled to a life of personal gratification), is a pathological liar, lacks any sense of shame, remorse, or guilt, is callous, irresponsible, and unreliable, is promiscuous, and has no realistic life plan. It was this sociopath who killed her beautiful two-year old child, dumped her body in an out-of-the-way place, and then partied unrelentingly for a month.
Let me tell you what is really hard for me, even as a licensed lawyer, to accept. I cannot make peace with the reality that a member of the profession would stand before a jury in this case and, with a straight face, argue that Caylee accidentally drowned, when (a) no drowning was reported at the time, (b) the child's body went missing, and (c) her skeletal remains were finally found with duct-tape over mouth and nose areas. A DROWNING? How preposterous can a defense be? Mr. Jose Baez's opening statement recalled to memory the story of a Southern sheriff who, while in the pocket of the Klan, was called upon to check out the body of a black man, who was shot in the head, covered in chains, and found floating in the river. After an awkwardly ponderous moment, the sheriff glanced up at his deputies and announced, "Well, boys, sure looks like a skiing accident to me."
So outrageous was the claim of drowning that Mr. Baez was enjoined by the court from alluding to it in closing argument. Why? Because there was not a scintilla of evidence to support it. So how, then, could a thoughtful juror regard this attorney and his client as even remotely credible? Were they not simply attempting to obfuscate the facts and to flummox the jury? When I was practicing law for twenty long years, guys like this were known as "professional bullsh-- artists." I hasten to add that I still regard most criminal defense attorneys in this way.
I know that it is considered un-American to question the jury system, but I have the lowest regard for it. In my experience, clients received either much more or much less than they deserved. A fair and balanced verdict was a rarity. Don't think for a moment that every savvy lawyer with a trial practice does not understand this fact and has not thoroughly internalized it. It has always amused me to see and to hear barristers on television discussing the jury system as sacrosanct, and then, thereafter, to watch them attempting to mediate or to settle a case with opposing counsel by emphasizing what a crap-shoot a jury trial really is. There's more than a little hypocrisy there. Let me assure all of my readers that, for the record, it is impossible to predict with any consistency what a jury may do.
If a prediction can be made in a high profile case like Anthony's, perhaps it should be, "Prepare to be shocked." And why not? Have you seen the uneducated, tattooed, pierced, and ill-clad riffraff who are in jury pools? What does it tell you when such people are frequently chosen? Lawyers don't prefer strong, independent, and insightful persons as jurors. They desire the ones who can be manipulated and led. They want uncritical thinkers, preferably dullards. Generally speaking, a lawyer's worst nightmare is trying a case to intelligent people.
The jury which was impaneled in Anthony's trial consisted, in my opinion, of a bunch of morons. "Oh, no!" you say, "They simply did not believe that the prosecution had made out a felony case against her." Obviously, the child was murdered. The faces of children who accidentally drown are never covered with duct-tape. Query: so who was the culprit -- the only one who figured that she was benefiting from the tot's murder? Whose credibility in the trial was close to zero?
"Beyond a reasonable doubt" has never meant "beyond any doubt whatsoever." The pertinent standard of proof is not one of ironclad certainty. The prosecutors made their case cogently and called upon credible and convincing evidence in doing so. All arrows pointed directly to Anthony as the one who killed her daughter.
The jury could not reason in a straight line. Why? Opinions may differ. I happen to believe that they watch too much television, like CSI and, prior to that, Quincy. They don't read challenging books or work in professions that require analytical thought. The most educated person on Anthony's jury was working on a master's degree in physical education. Too many Americans don't take seriously principles of common morality anymore. Moral relativism, which never issues in indignation or outrage, has replaced any semblance of Christianity. My opinion, very frankly, is that too many Americans are fat, spiritually vacuous, and intellectually flaccid. The jury system hits on one of eight cylinders in such a culture.
The Anthony verdict is an unmitigated outrage. It reminds me, in some respects, of the O.J. Simpson verdict. Yet, as Simpson's life following his infamous murder trial suggests, there is a reality called karma, or reaping what one sows. Ms. Anthony was adjudged not guilty, but she will be called "murderer" as long as she lives. She will find no rest, no peace, and no solace anywhere she goes. Deep friendships will elude her. Although she may not realize it now, her life is already over. In twenty years, if she lives that long, she may wish that she had been granted the mercy of imprisonment without the possibility of parole. At least incarceration may have yielded her the benefit of acceptance by those of her own kind.
In the meantime, may the all-but-forgotten name of "Caylee Marie Anthony" rest softly on our hearts and memories.
July 10, 2010