Is Casey Anthony Guilty or Are You?
Human nature on trial
The verdict is in and the protests have begun.
Casey Anthony was pronounced “not guilty” by a jury of her peers of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. One of the alternate jurors, who watched the complete trial as the twelve did, said he would have delivered the same verdict. He said that the prosecution failed to demonstrate adequate evidence for the mother’s guilt, that what he and the other jurors did see demonstrated was Casey as a loving mother—and as a member of a very dysfunctional family. The alternate juror said of the jurors who passed the final judgment: “They really listened to this case and kept an open mind.”
Much of the American public apparently doesn’t agree and expressed outrage over the verdict. One Facebook post complained, “She can kill her child and get away with it.. but I can’t get married to my partner and adopt a child.” Outside of the Florida courtroom, in New York’s Times Square, and on social media throughout the nation, people objected that Casey Anthony was guilty of murder and should be punished.
Whoa! Why do we believe that we can know more than 12 jurors who saw the entire trial and the complete evidence and received guidance on the fine points of the American justice system?
Some blame the media for their coverage, which was obnoxiously extensive as well as unfair and unbalanced. They seem to have decided that Casey Anthony was guilty and presented a story skewed to support that viewpoint.
Like many other courtroom dramas, even before 24-hour media coverage, many people eagerly follow legal soap operas playing out step by step, immersing themselves in the story and rushing to judgment. Whether the players are a dysfunctional family or a rich celebrity, eager eyes are hungry for drama.
Can we fault the media for playing to this base human desire? From Roman gladiators to the Crucifixion to public lynchings, many among us have jumped at the chance to watch human suffering. It would be ideal if all media gave the public healthy fare, like a wise parent feeds healthy food to her children, with only the occasional treat. However, media needs to make money to survive, and thus much of media caters to the widest possible audience. It often seems that the most principled media, those organizations that try to appeal to the best in humankind, struggle the most. Is this the media’s fault, or are they just giving the public what many of us clamor for?
This introduces another base human expectation: to get things free, without trading value for value. News organizations, magazines, and quality writers are struggling these days, in part because the American public has come to expect news for free, especially on the Internet, and because businesses are jumping at the free marketing they can get, also on the Internet. I fear this expectation could be the end of quality investigative journalism. When we aren’t willing to pay for what we value, we can’t expect those values to thrive.
There’s another human foible that could be blamed for the public outrage over the verdict: it’s that many people are loathe to use critical thinking skills in favor of a quick, easy rush to judgment. I need go no further than my e-mail box for evidence: Bill Gates will give me $500 for forwarding an e-mail to 50 friends? Really?!
Obviously, I don’t know whether Casey Anthony is guilty or not, but I do know our American justice system rests—as it should—on a person being innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. I know that a person should not be convicted of murder just because she’s a liar, uses foul language, partied when she should have been displaying grief, and comes from a dysfunctional family.
The ending of a young life, full of potential, is always tragic. Murder, when one person steals life away from another human being, is always wrong. I’m happy to live in a nation where, for the most part, the justice system strives to do what is right, not is what is expedient, popular, or merely plausible, a justice system that values evidence over subjectivism.
Yet one important aspect of human nature remains as a part of this story, an aspect we should always nurture: a desire to see justice done. When a doe-eyed two-year old girl has died, and when her death seems to have been intentional—murder—we want to see someone pay. Today’s outcry over young Caylee Anthony’s death may speak to some weaknesses in America, but it also reveals an important tender side: our appreciation for children, for innocence and for justice.
Annie Tobey is a freelance writer and editor living in Richmond, Virginia. For six years, she’s shared her philosophical passions through V Magazine for Women, combining love for life, the diversity of women, and a celebration of success in all its forms, on the printed page and online, now at www.MyVMagazine.com. She also shares her joie de vivre as a travel writer at www.ActiveWomanTraveler.com. She welcomes freelance opportunities for writing and editing, helping businesses present a polished written message that builds a quality brand. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I shouldn’t be surprised, Justice’s last and second album, Audio, Video, Disco (2011), was similarly a massive disappointment.July 13, 2016
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