Casey Anthony and the Weight of Doubt

A jury of Casey Anthony’s peers has acquitted her of murder, of aggravated child abuse, and of aggravated manslaughter of a child. While she was convicted of lying to law enforcement, she has been incarcerated for 3 years and Judge Perry, applying the maximum sentence for the counts she was convicted of, calculated her release date for July 13, 2011. Jurors have been mostly silent, but a few have spoken about their deliberations and how they came to find Casey Not Guilty.

Ultimately, there was no answer to the How, the When and the Where questions regarding Caylee’s death. At least that’s what the jurors decided. One could argue the Defense did their job and did it well. As occasionally harebrained and absurd as Jose Baez’s “theories” were about what might have happened to Caylee, they seem to have provided enough confusion to create a smoke cloud of doubt in the jurors minds.

​The prosecution told a cohesive narrative, a story that ran through Casey’s web of lies to the discovery of Caylee’s dead body. Forensic science ventured into new arenas and helped paint the picture of a plausible scenario for the murder of Caylee Anthony. Linda Drane Burdick closed the deal with her final rebuttal of the Defense’s closing arguments. Her speech was powerful, the imagery poignant, the finale spellbinding.

Then there was this: A Reasonable Doubt. Cheney Mason, one of Casey’s defense attorneys, made a big deal about the burden of proof in his closing argument. He had visual aids as well, a large chart with vertical bars in increasing shades of green, and at the very top, a stark red bar with the word Guilty next to it. He helped the jury understand that the prosecution carried a heavy burden to prove Casey’s guilt. If the jury thought that Casey might have done it, if they thought it was likely that she did it, or even probable, that wasn’t good enough. They had to reach the red bar; they had to believe, based on the evidence, that beyond a reasonable doubt Casey had murdered Caylee.

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The Casey Anthony murder trial became a worldwide phenomenon. Capturing the imagination, stoking the sense of outrage for the death of a child, and feeding the need for justice, the cast of characters in this drama provided fodder for the news media and the viewers who tuned in to watch. But the jury wasn’t in it for the drama; they were in it for real.

The jury took just 11 hours to return with their verdict and from what we’ve heard; they felt the evidence just wasn’t there to convict Casey Anthony of any of the charges relating to Caylee’s death. While it’s true that there was no direct physical evidence–no fingerprints on the duct tape for example–is that enough to create reasonable doubt of Casey’s involvement? Reasonable doubt is defined as “the level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty.”

This is the question I have been struggling with since the verdict was reached. Could the jury have been so focused on the lack of direct physical evidence in the manner of Caylee’s death that they failed to use their reason and their common sense? Did they not find the evidence that did exist to be of such a convincing character that they could rely upon it without hesitation? I realize that being on a jury in a capital murder case in a death penalty state is a monstrous responsibility. But first-degree murder wasn’t the only option, the only charge.

I honestly can’t make up my mind on whether or not Casey murdered her daughter. I believe the evidence that does exist, while circumstantial, is compelling but I suppose if I can’t decide, I certainly couldn’t have found her guilty of murder. But the reality is that her toddler died, her toddler was dumped in the woods, stuffed into a trash bag and there was duct tape across her mouth. She is the child’s mother; she spun a web of lies that created a 31-day span where no one but Casey could have known about her child’s whereabouts. Casey even concocted a kidnapping by her fictitious babysitter. I’m no lawyer, but the cumulative weight of the above evidence sounds like criminally negligent manslaughter. There was clearly an omission to act or a failure to perform a duty owed to her child and that resulted in the child’s death.  I’m not sure why the state of Fl didn’t pursue this as the main focus of their prosecution if they knew they didn’t have the proverbial smoking gun to pin Murder One on Casey Anthony.

​As it stands, Casey will soon be freed from prison to resume her young life. I’m confident we have not heard the end of the Casey Anthony story as jurors and most likely Casey herself will ultimately find compelling reasons to tell their tales.

 

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