Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Casey Anthony: Why the System Worked

Some weeks ago, a month maybe, a nationally reported (and widely followed) murder case ended with the defendant, Casey Anthony, being found not guilty of all felony charges and only guilty of misdemeanor charges of which time served was the final adjudication. The system worked just as it should have.

Of course if you heard the cries of television personalities everywhere and no doubt gossip kings and queens in every circle of America their claims are opposite, at least by a substantial majority from what one can tell reading on the internet and taking an informal survey of the pros and cons. The speculative majority claim that it was a case of justice failing, of the system failing and of a great injustice taking place of which we must redeem ourselves (I pity the next 5 big news murder cases where the innocence of the defendant dare not be presumed in order to assuage the collective public conscience).Maybe there is a point to redeeming one's self with failure but the failure is not due to the system.

With television's biggest personalities such as Bill O’Reilly and venomous Nancy Grace (no irony is wasted on her name and even now pointing out the obvious with Grace and her personality is still justified) one would have thought the collapse of America’s justice system had ensued, but in fact it was anything but that. No, the system did not fail and no, justice was not thwarted. Rather what occurred was the very design of the justice system we have being executed just as it should.

No where is it written that our justice system guarantees perfect justice. In fact there is only one place of perfect justice and that is with God. Our system has an architecture which seeks to preserve the sanctity of testimony, facts and evidence as well as giving the fullest opportunity for defendants to have their cases heard by as impartial as possible juries. In fact the system goes to great lengths to insure that as little bias as possible, if none at all, is present in the minds of the jurors.

And it is just this, the necessity of minimizing of any bias which secures our track record as a nation, when it comes to jury trials, which is rather outstanding. It insures that people like television personality and commentator, Bill O’Reilly, who concluded long before the jury trial that Casey Anthony was guilty, do not get to render verdicts by O’Reilly Factor fiat or hysterical personalities such as Nancy Grace be given predominance over juries and attempt to bully them into a verdict she demands.

The system keeps many, though not all, free from justice capitulating to hysteria or bourgeois mobs of ill-informed crusaders. Many a man or woman has come to trial with great social prejudices and been found not guilty, later to learn their innocence indeed was a fact when, after more discovery, facts demonstrate this and point to another perpetrator.This is because the system is a great one that is designed to resist such infiltrations.

However, in some cases public opinion has pressured juries and the justice system to prejudice itself to the injury (and no doubt execution) of innocent men and women. It is always, always, and always a bad thing when prejudice of any kind enters a courtroom no matter how convinced the public or its talking heads are of the guilt or innocence of a man or woman. They simply do not, and rarely will, have all the facts.

The system under which we live and prosper and find our safeguard works, consistently. Outstanding and spectacular exceptions do not negate its high percentage of accuracy. I understand that this does not address abusive police, prosecutors and judges, nor does it make them go away but this is not about that, rather about the system as a whole and whether or not this exception, as some claim in exasperation, prove that the system failed. It did not.

The system worked as it should. Obviously it did not have the results many suspected would come, one I even thought seemed obvious per reports but then again, I was not seated at the trial and did not hear all the evidence or lack thereof and the arguments being made. Ultimately what the jury said is that they agree she appears and seems guilty but the failure lay at the feet of the prosecutors who were in a rush to build a case and did so without the necessary thoroughness the jury needed.

I want justice for Caylee. But the American justice system does not guarantee results. What it does do, however, is to seek to provide what is most essential and has been denied to many defendants down through history which is the greatest amount of fairness and opportunity for both sides when a case is being tried. And friend, one day you may treasure that far above your opinion about Casey Anthony and the results of her trial. The system worked, just as it was designed to work and you would want the same if ever you found yourself subject to its mechanisms. Do you want Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace or some half-informed public adjudicating your case? I doubt it.

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