Well, I hope you missed me. With all apologies, last week was an anomaly, the first week I have failed to deliver content since I began this foray into weekly missives almost two years ago. A mere blip on the radar and I do apologize.
With that being said, there is a lot to talk about. Obviously, you want to know about the trip we took to America’s beating heart, our capital (capitol), and also to the place of the Civil War’s most bloody battle, Gettysburg. I am sure you are also interested in my thoughts regarding the last space shuttle launch that took place a few days ago.
But first and foremost, and the topic I couldn’t wait to discuss with you, is the verdict that was handed down early last week which caused such an uproar and once again put our jury system and its “failings” in the cross-hairs of pundits and pseudo-pundits alike. The Casey Anthony trial, which will go down along the likes of the OJ Simpson verdict as a travesty of justice… or so many would have you think. But perhaps, just perhaps, this was a demonstration not of how the justice system has failed, but of how it works.
At the outset let me say one thing. I don’t follow this stuff. I don’t watch it on television, don’t read the news about it, don’t learn all of the minutiae. One reason is that I don’t have the time. The amount of hours it would take to intimately learn all of the details of this type of matter would be tantamount to taking on a full time job. The talk show hosts, they get paid for it. I don’t. I get paid to learn all of the details about my own cases.
The second reason why I don’t concern myself with the newsworthiness of a matter such as this is that I don’t want to be bothered by it. As an attorney, you can imagine I get asked for my opinion on all types of “legal” subjects, whether it be the OJ verdict, Gloria Allred’s latest crusade, or the Madoff scandal. Trust me, it is better to say that I don’t know anything than it is to try to talk intelligently about a subject, only to learn that I am not as well informed as my conversation partner.
With that being said, here is my unqualified and ill-informed analysis of the Casey Anthony verdict—it demonstrated the beauty of our justice system at work and not, in any way, the travesty that Nancy Grace or other authorities would have you believe it to be. I read the tweets, Facebook posts and headlines. As an attorney who spends numerous hours in courtrooms, this is my response to all of you who criticized the jury who handed down the verdict of “not guilty”—You are all wrong.
Let’s examine the three primary participants in a criminal trial: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the jury. We all know what the prosecutor is supposed to do. Her job is to present the evidence to support the charges she has levied against the defendant and convince the jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime for which he was charged. And the defense attorney? Well, let’s be clear on this—the defense attorney’s job is not to get the defendant off. The defense attorney’s job is to make sure the prosecutor does her job.
And the jury? The jury’s job is to listen, consider, and decide, all within the vacuum that is the four walls of the courtroom and not to allow outside information or personal prejudices impact their consideration of the evidence presented.
With the Casey Anthony trial, so much attention has been given to the jury—how could the jury have failed so miserably to convict this woman against whom so much evidence existed? Look to the prosecutor, not the jury. The jury did their job and, in fact, they should be commended (not lambasted) for their efforts.
Clearly the world thought that Casey Anthony committed the crime; the evidence seemed to be overwhelming in favor of conviction. But was this evidence properly placed in front of the jury? Was it delivered to the jury in the form of unimpeachable testimony, direct evidence (as opposed to circumstantial evidence), and incontrovertible scientific data?
The jury sat in the courtroom day after day and they did what they were ordered to do: they listened and made a decision based on what they heard. They refrained from watching television and reading newspapers (if there are any anymore) and the Internet, and they kept an open mind as to the evidence as it was presented. They then considered the evidence that they heard, not their personal prejudices or beliefs, and rendered a verdict.
Did they get it right? Who knows… Many will say they didn’t, but at the end of the day, they were the twelve people who heard all of the evidence. They weren’t watching Court TV to get its take on the testimony, listening to Rush Limbaugh or Larry Elder, and they weren’t reading the Huffington Post or tmz.
If I may offer an analogy, and please forgive the baseball references, but you know me well enough by now. Imagine the 1927 Yankees, considered by many to be the best baseball team ever, with the names of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the line-up card. In 1927, the Yankees finished in first place while the Boston Red Sox finished last, a staggering 59 games back in the standings. The two teams play a game and the Yankees simply don’t have it. They commit 6 errors, get only 3 hits and lose to the Red Sox 12-0. Are you going to blame the umpires for the Yankees’ loss? Of course not, you blame the Yankees for failing to perform that day.
So why do you blame the jurors in the Anthony trial? They are similar to the umpires; they call it like they see it. They don’t have a dog in the race, a care as to who wins and who loses. They just make the decision from what they see and hear.
If you haven’t seen the movie “12 Angry Men” I highly recommend it. It takes place entirely in the jury room as the 12 jurors deliberate after the trial has concluded. What began as an apparent slam-dunk conviction for the prosecution devolves into an acquittal by the time the movie is over. But we the viewers who are confined to the jury room with the jurors don’t know what really happened. We can piece together the details of the crime from the deliberations, but we weren’t present at the time the crime was committed. But by the end of the movie we feel elated that the jury decided to acquit the defendant; is it at least possible that the defendant actually committed the crime? We applaud the method by which the jury system did its job. Why don’t we feel the same elation after hearing of the Anthony verdict? It isn’t that much different…
We the public who are so inundated with information through a myriad of sources formulate opinions about subjects, but we aren’t sitting there every day, listening and watching. We don’t know what happened inside the jury room and we don’t know what they heard or saw to cause them to vote the way they did.
But we can interpret the decision of the jurors as a reflection of the capability of the prosecution in presenting its case and in the defense’s ability to poke enough holes in the prosecution’s case to create that ever so cryptic “reasonable doubt” to warrant acquittal.
Good on them! The system does work sometimes. Don’t criticize it because you disagree with the outcome. If the outcomes were forgone conclusions, we wouldn’t even need trials… what kind of a world would we live in then?