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Monday, July 11, 2011

Jury got it right in Anthony trial

Telegraph Editorial

Of the millions of Americans outraged, frustrated and offended by Casey Anthony‘s acquittal on charges she murdered her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, perhaps no group is experiencing more anguish over the decision than the jury itself.

“I just swear to God … I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do … But it wasn’t there,” Juror No. 2 told the St. Petersburg Times. “For me, it was not a good outcome.”

“There wasn’t enough evidence. I don’t think anyone in America can tell us how she died. We have no idea,” Jennifer Ford, Juror No. 3, told ABC news. “It was a heartbreaking decision to have to make, but I had to do it based on the law.”

Months of unrelenting pretrial hoopla convicted Anthony in the public’s eye before a jury was chosen. Reasonable people concluded an innocent mother wouldn’t wait 31 days to report a missing child while spending the intervening days partying up a storm. With no other theories to distract attention, the circumstantial evidence against Anthony became convincing.

But the benchmarks established to prove guilt on cable television are a couple of notches below the standards required in criminal court. The endless hours of purported factual evidence spewed by the likes of CNN’s Nancy Grace amounted to smoke rings blown into a breeze.

As one juror lamented: “We didn’t know how she died, we didn’t know when she died. Technically, we didn’t even know where she died. You couldn’t say who did it.”

Casey Anthony isn’t out of the clear. Although she will soon be released from prison for time served relating to her convictions for lying to police, she could still be sued in civil court where the burden of proof is much lower. This is how O.J. Simpson was eventually found liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Ironically, our criminal justice system isn’t about justice. To be convicted of murder, the prosecution must prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

It’s not the jury’s responsibility to determine a just outcome. If it were, the Anthony jury would certainly have found her guilty.

As one jury made clear, “Not guilty does not mean innocent.” This ambiguity is difficult to accept for those who seek justice from a system weighted to err in favor of the innocent.

As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz observed in The Wall Street Journal: “For thousands of years, Western society has insisted that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for one innocent defendant to be wrongly convicted.”

That notion is difficult for a public foaming for justice to accept, especially when the victim is a 2-year-old girl and the accused a distracted, narcissistic mother.

The jury is to be commended for not losing site of its legal responsibility, ignoring the siren calls to adjudicate truth and instead dispassionately determining whether the prosecution met its burden of proof.

Clearly, it did not. In the end, the jury reached the only moral decision it could – not guilty.