We’ve heard much about the Casey Anthony trial, but if you’ve read our about page you know we’re not interested in news per se, but how that news applies to you. In this incident, we’ll draw some conclusions about the legal system — good or bad — instead of continuing other discussion you’ll find elsewhere.
Some people don’t quite understand innocent until proven guilty; the modern standard being innocent unless/until the media says so. There may be people who believe if you’re arrested and tried, you’re guilty — a not guilty verdict only being from some legal wrangling. In other words, people on trial must be guilty, as the DA and others would never prosecute an innocent person.
Say what you will about the Casey Anthony trial, some people felt there was no evidence of actual murder:
“I didn’t hear any evidence at all that they have that Casey Anthony actually killed her child,” Murphy told the “Today” show on June 8. “There’s plenty that she lied. Plenty she was a bad mother. Plenty she probably participated in burying the body, maybe even covering up the crime. But I didn’t hear one thing that put Casey Anthony at the murder scene.” [Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor teaching at New England Law School]
Without evidence of the act, how can you convict of murder? That’s not reasonable doubt, that’s a complete and total lack of any evidence at all. In other words, any unsubstantiated murder idea the prosecution puts forth possess as much credibility as saying space aliens did it.
Yet some believe in conviction, even if the prosecution presents no evidence.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know the verdict in the Scott Peterson case. Even with a lack of evidence the jury took the moral high road and convicted him.
If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, nothing will. With that attitude, it’s only a short journey to a system in which anyone can be guilty of anything, anytime someone wants.
Recall Robert Redford’s character in the movie “Legal Eagles” where a similar situation came up regarding his defendant everyone believed had overwhelming evidence against her?
MR LOGAN [addressing the jury in his opening statement, after laying out his theory]: You’re not buying this, are you? You’re not listening to a word I’m saying. Guess what? I don’t blame you. After listening to Mr. Blanchard lay out the prosecution’s evidence even I’m convinced … Let’s save ourselves a lot of time. Let’s be honest. There are better things we could be doing. Who thinks Chelsea Deardon is guilty? [raises hand]
PROSECUTOR: Objection your honor.
MR. LOGAN: Don’t hold back. My hand is raised. I believe my client murdered Victor Taft in cold blood. Isn’t everybody convinced? Who agrees with me? [addressing a juror] You’re convinced, right? The prosecution says she’s guilty. The jury says she’s guilty. Let’s save the State of New York a lot of time and money and move directly to sentencing.
JUROR to Mr. Logan: Isn’t she entitled to a fair trial?
MR. LOGAN: Let’s give her a fair trial and then convict her.
When you start with a preconceived desired outcome, you’ve got a kangaroo court — why bother with a trial at all? Just allow mob rule, and to hell with the pesky ideas of evidence, proof, and due process. Those ideas apply to everyone or they protect nobody. Innocent until proven guilty isn’t just a slogan, it’s an idea which forms the foundation of our legal protections.
If you can’t prove the method of actual death, you can’t even convict of manslaughter. All the evidence after the death of disposing of the body do nothing to prove the actual crime of murder. They may prove lots of other things, but not the charges brought.
In any crime, it’s important the state prove their case, not with flimsy evidence someone is a lousy person, but actual evidence the person committed the crime in question. We’re on our way to a banana republic when we abandon the concepts of evidence and due process for a conviction — even for people we don’t like.
Yes, this means trial outcomes aren’t always what we want.
Proving the case with actual evidence remains a high bar for the state, and that’s a good thing, even if we don’t always approve of the outcome for unlikeable defendants.