events occur that provide some optimism that real people
– rather than the sock-puppets who speak on behalf of institutional
interests – have a firm grip on reality. The jury in the Casey
Anthony trial did precisely what they were directed to
do by the court: deliberated on the evidence presented to them,
and concluded that there was not the requisite degree of certitude
to allow them to find this woman guilty of the murder charges
brought against her.
more than the percaled agents of "justice" could take.
They know a "guilty" person when they see one: it’s
whoever is charged with a crime by the state! The cable-TV bobbleheads
– let’s call them Dennis Dullard and Amelia Airhead – began screaming
for vengeance, . . . not so much against Ms. Anthony, but against
the jurors! Their screeches of rage were echoed by other
lobotomized voices, one of whom urged doing away with the jury
system altogether. Charles Dickens’ Madame Defarge was resurrected!
Another shrieked at the "idiots on the jury," while
another asked the most irrelevant question as it pertained to
this defendant: "who killed Caylee then?"
It was not
the role of the jurors to find Caylee’s killer (if, indeed
she was killed rather than dying accidentally). It is the function
of the police to search for causal evidence and present
it to prosecuting attorneys. If the prosecution concludes that
there is "probable cause" to charge a defendant with
a crime, it will do so, leaving to the jury the task of deciding
whether, "beyond a reasonable doubt," there was sufficient
evidence to convict the defendant. The jurors did what
they were supposed to do, what the judge ordered them to do. If
their critics want to blame someone for Casey’s being found not
guilty, they should focus on those who failed at their
assigned task: the functionaries of the state! If blame
is to be found, it can more readily be said that police investigators
and prosecuting attorneys were unable to fulfill their roles.
To blame the jurors who, by their verdict, said "you have
not convinced us," is as irrational as a murderer blaming
his victim for spilling his blood on his carpeting! Those who
talk of abolishing the jury system would be better advised to
urge abolishing the prosecution of criminals!
spent too many of his high school years in "drivers ed"
classes, while Amelia was at cheerleader’s practice on the day
the legal system was discussed in civics class. Whatever the explanation,
they knew what is foremost in the minds of all men and women of
statist persuasion: the proof of a defendant’s guilt is found
in the fact that he or she is charged with a crime! What more
needs to be asked? How can "enquiring minds" be expected
to give up such more pressing inquiries as the identity of the
next "American Idol"?
I have no
defense to make of Casey Anthony as a person or a mother. I don’t
know that much about her to make any such judgment. Her alleged
failure to notify anyone of Caylee’s being missing until thirty-one
days later does not impress me as the epitome of responsible motherhood.
But the jury was not assigned the task of judging this woman’s
character. They understood what Dennis and Amelia did not: individuals
are responsible for the consequences of their actions. In a world
in which we have become accustomed to dealing with one another
in highly abstract ways, it is easy for any of us to express opinions
– or courses of action – without feeling any sense of responsibility
for what we have put in motion.
offered a powerful example of the adverse consequences of living
in a world of abstractions. He spoke of the differences between
the wartime experiences of soldiers on the ground – who have to
shoot, bayonet, or throw hand grenades at their victims – and
bomber pilots who may kill more than the foot-soldier, but whose
acts appear to them only as distant "puffs of smoke."
While Dennis and Amelia saw the implications of their commentaries
as little more than "puffs of smoke," the jurors were
required to daily confront Casey Anthony, face-to-face, and determine
her life-or-death fate. In another case in which they had not
been picked to sit in judgment of a defendant, some of these jurors
might have been as impressed by Dennis and Amelia’s post-trial
babblings as was your cousin Louise in Schenectady. But on this
day, they made the choice to live responsibly. The words
of one of the jurors, Jennifer Ford, should give encouragement
that many of our neighbors can rise above the Madame Defarge lynch-mob
mindset. As Ms. Ford so well expressed it: "If they want
to charge and they want me to take someone’s life, they have to
prove it. They have to prove it, or else I’m a murderer too."
nor Amelia will have the slightest appreciation for Ms. Ford’s
remarks. They will likely accuse her of being "soft on crime,"
or a "terrorist sympathizer," as they head for the hardware
store for more rope!