The Casey Anthony Trial and a “Broken Legal System”

As a lawyer, I can’t help but be a little amused, and irritated, at some of the reactions to the Casey Anthony verdict. After the jury foreman in The State of Florida v. Casey Anthony let loose with a resounding “not guilty,” people everywhere crapped and fell back in it, exclaiming “miscarriage of justice,” “our legal system is broken,” and “how could this happen?”

Young lawyers learn quick that justice is not a well-oiled machine that is beyond reproach, infallible. It has its hiccups, foibles, and misfires, like everything else. Why?

Manning the stern, sails, mast and tiller of The Good Ship Justice are human beings. People screw things up. Alexander Pope put it a little more eloquently when he wrote, “to err is human.”

The Casey trial proves that our system of criminal justice DOES work. Law enforcement investigated the crime. Law enforcement made its recommendation to the district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office reviewed the potential evidence and concluded that it would swing for the fences and charge Casey Anthony with capital murder. A judge presided over the trial court. Twelve jurors and alternates were picked, given instructions on the presumption of innocence and that the government’s burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The defense team did what a defense team is supposed to do–get an acquittal.

It has been said by many a legal scholar and practitioner over the centuries, our system of justice is not perfect, but it’s the best we got. It is the alternative to mob mentality and the presumption of guilt. It is the alternative to the backwater, low-brow, spiteful ignorance of medieval times.

Be pissed, be outraged, be flummoxed and forlorn. It’s your right to feel how you want to feel, and to say what you want to say. But, if you are outraged about the Casey case, I don’t want to hear it, unless you are equally disgusted by the hundreds that have been wrongfully sent to their deaths by overly zealous prosecutors more concerned with winning than doing what’s right.

Innocent inmates that have, and do, call death row home have been, and are, more numerous than acquitted murderers walking the streets. That is a graver injustice than Casey Anthony going free.

Our system errs on the side of innocence. If you disagree with that essential premise, you might prefer living somewhere like North Korea.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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15 Responses to The Casey Anthony Trial and a “Broken Legal System”

  1. A Michael J. Scott Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Collin writes:

    “Innocent inmates that have, and do, call death row home have been, and are, more numerous than acquitted murderers walking the streets. That is a graver injustice than Casey Anthony going free.”

    Yes and well stated! I am an opponent of the death penalty on many levels, but I don’t have the time to go into the reasons right now. Good post man.

  2. woody Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 8:17 am

    The money quote: “Innocent inmates that have, and do, call death row home have been, and are, more numerous than acquitted murderers walking the streets. That is a graver injustice than Casey Anthony going free.”

    Follow the Innocence Project. All prosecutions, in such high-profile cases, are primarily “political,” designed to burnish the reps of the DA and the cops.

  3. Roy Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Well said, and something I’ve been saying for years.

    Law is not the same as justice – at best it’s an approximation – and sending innocent people to their deaths certainly isn’t.

    I’ve always thought that making a conscious decision to take a life is a bigger ‘evil’ than any deranged killer can commit.

  4. Pam Ladds Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

    You are absolutely correct! The recent SCOTUS outrages show us how damaged the system really is, and how weighted towards the prosecution. Justice is not served by a media feeding frenzy. Trials do not belong on tv or in the papers. The Defence and the Prosecution had a chance to present to a jury. And the jury decided. Get over those of you in armchairs! And if you need convincing, listen to the beginning of the Law and Order shows which state that the “good guys” (prosecutors and cops) prosecute the villains. Hmmmmm! What happened to the “accused” and the presumption of innocence? The legal system is supposed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused does not have to prove innocence.

  5. Marsha Woerner Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Hear, hear!! Well said! And with all due respect to the Anthonys, I don’t know them, and I have more important (to my life) things to spend my time on. I AM sorry that they had to suffer the media show 🙁

  6. dp1053 Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Bravo! Excellent post and quite true. Well done.

  7. lazersedge Reply

    July 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you Collin. You have put this so much more eloquently than I could or would. I always wonder where are all of those screaming about a broken system are when some of those held on death row for 20 years are found to be innocent. Really good post sir.

  8. Daniel Reply

    July 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    The system is broken. I am a medical doctor. Imagine if I had to discuss every clinical decision that could save someone’s life with 12 laypeople chosen as “peers” of the patient to decide if I can treat the patient or not. Imagine that there was a “medical judge” that had an hour to explain to that “jury” the risks and benefits associated with my clinical decision and the clinical reasoning behind it. Clinical training that took me more than ten years. And then the “Judge” asks them to make the decision based on what they heard for an hour. It would be HORRIBLE!!!

    With a similar reasoning, I believe that the “jury” should be composed of people trained in the law and justice system. Maybe lawyers or judges, just like the Supreme Court.

    I just saw an interview with Jennifer Ford (juror #3) and she is one of the dumbest people I have heard. She can’t even explain how they made the decision to acquit. She definitely did not understand the evidence and the law. The jury argues that the prosecution could not proof that Caley did not die from an accident. Does it really matter? Ok, so even if it was an accident… Casey’s act should have at least gotten her a guilty verdict on the 3rd charge of manslaughter. The fact that admitting that Caley was missing took her 31 days and was only driven by her mom’s concern, is enough for someone who is smart to convict her for manslaughter. Casey had the responsibility of taking care of her daughter. Just for that reason she should have been held responsible for her death, even in the case of an accident. You don’t need the prosecution to show how Caley died. The prosecution showed motive… and Casey herself prove motive. She lived the good life after Caley “dissapeared”. The mom screamed in the 911 call “THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG!”.

    Let’s say that Caley had been kidnapped and kept alive for 30 days. The fact that Casey did not report her disappearance two minutes after it happen like any normal parent should be enough to convict her of manslaughter. 31 days later… If Caley had been alive for any amount of time after her disappearance, any sort of rescue for Caley would have been foiled. Bang… Caley murdered on day 29 of her disappearance… Who commited manslaugher for endangering her daughter life and leading to her death? CASEY.

    There are also comments from people who were present in court who describe that some of the jurors were not paying attention, and some even were drawing triangles and circles in their notebooks.

    Yes, I think a “jury of peers” in this day and age of CSI mentality does not work. The prosecution should not have even needed a body in this case. But they did… and it was a skeleton inside two bags with tape around the mouth. A mother that did not ever said “I miss my daughter”, a mother that never grieved, a mother that lied until she was caught in her lies.. A car that by pure coincidence smell like death about the same time that Caley died. Had her mom called 911 in the past for the smell of death on Casey’s car… no… How can Casey not be held responsible.

    The jury did not understand the evidence. The jury forgot the motive. The jury did not understand the law. The jury did not understand… If they had understood and cared, they would have taken a longer look at the evidence. The jury of peers does not WORK.

    Now… I have worked more than 100 hours this week… I can’t even read… hopefully what I wrote makes some sense.

    • Collin Hinds Reply

      July 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      You make some good points. Personally, if it were my butt that was on the line, I would be terrified at the prospect of having twelve people pulled off the street to decide my fate. I can’t say I have a whole lot of faith in the intelligence of the average American. Conversely, the military criminal justice system is one of the best. People think of it as a kangaroo court, but the truth is that military personnel take their jobs as jurors very seriously. As a result, the military court tends to produce some of the fairest outcomes.

      100 hours. That’s not healthy, Doctor.

    • A Michael J. Scott Reply

      July 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      It makes perfect sense, and as someone who has worked for many, many years in the criminal justice system, and who has witnessed and participated in dozens of capital murder trial I agree with every word you say. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Anonymous Reply

      July 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Dr Daniel makes some excellent points about how the system is broken and we should not depend on a handful of average, untrainted americans to make a decision. He hits the nail right on the head!!!

      And all the other posters before him making comments praising the original poster, Collin Hindes, should be ashamed of themselves for being so ignorant. A bunch of morons is what they are, along with the original poster…

  9. Joe Smith Reply

    July 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I say that our legal system IS BROKEN. The OJ Simpson Verdict and now the Caset Anthony Verdict is proof. It is a fact that Caylee was missing for 31 days while Casey Partied, made excuses, lied to her mother, then lied to the Police and failed in every way to help Police find Caylee. That is CLEARLY Child Neglect so this Jury had NO excuse for not convicting Casey Anthony.

  10. Debbie H.M. Reply

    July 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Just because a verdict was handed down by a jury doesn’t mean a system is working…The entire judicial system is “inconsistent” in passing down verdicts. The problem is that everyone has a different opinion of what exactly “reasonable doubt” really is. MOST cases are based on circumstantial evidence…it is just not that common that the bad guys leave their DNA and/or fingerprints. And in the Casey Anthony case, Casey didn’t report her missing daughter (who Casey and Baez later admitted that Casey knew was dead from day one). Not only is this behavior suspicious but also allowed precious DNA and evidence to rot away!! For that alone, Casey should have been indicted for something more than lying…it changed the entire case! The list of circumstantial evidence in this case is a mile long and some of these pieces of evidence can be linked together to only one person Casey! If you research a lot of prison cases similar to hers, we can see that literaly thousands of prisoners might as well be set free because a lot of them were convicted on much much less evidence than was presented in Casey’s case. All of this just proves that our juries are inconsistent in their verdicts based on different views of reasonable doubt. Scott Peterson’s case is a great example of next to NO evidence yet he’s guilty. In the cases where innocent people were prisoned or on death row, these should be researched and a very close look at what the evidence actually was. One piece of circumstantial evidence is much different from the long laundry list of circumstantial evidence that was against Casey added to the fact that she covered up the death of her daughter and lied about it…behavior is a necessary part of the puzzle whether we want to admit it or not. I also think that the system needs to take a look at the behaviors of both defense and prosecution attorneys. I do NOT believe it should be constitutional to allow a defense attorney to just fabricate stories about other witnesses just to get his own client off. He made accusations in his opening statements as well as throughout the trial based on absolutely not one piece of evidence and this person wasn’t even on trial. There must be professional boundaries where this kind of behavior is concerned.

  11. Pingback: Official Discussion Thread: the Casey Anthony verdict - Crime in the news, unsolved cases - Page 125 - City-Data Forum

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