Monday, July 18, 2011

Revolution: Thoughts on the Casey Anthony Trial

Thoughts on the Casey Anthony Trial

If you live in the U.S., you've been barraged with media coverage of the trial, acquittal (on the main charges) and—as I write this—the upcoming release of Casey Anthony. She is the 22-year-old Florida woman who was accused of murdering her daughter Caylee.

But this is not just "tabloid TV" running amok with sensationalism—as bad as that would be! There was something even bigger and worse going on in this case, and to be honest, it seems that a large majority of people have gotten sucked in by it. That is why I am writing this letter—because I think it is important to see how this case and all the really vicious media coverage fits into attacks on women's liberation, reproductive rights, critical thinking, and into the constantly ramped-up repression of the people and our legal rights.

Let me say from the outset that I do not know how Caylee Anthony died, and neither did the prosecution, the police, or the army of demented TV personalities like Nancy Grace,1 who continue to scream for Casey Anthony's blood. But I do know that the jury came to a correct verdict, which was that the prosecution had not proved its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."2

The New York Times, in a July 5 article, "Casey Anthony Not Guilty in Slaying of Daughter," summarized problems with the prosecution case:

"There was no direct evidence tying Ms. Anthony to the death of her daughter. Forensic evidence was tenuous, and no witnesses ever connected her to Caylee's death. Investigators found no traces of Ms. Anthony's DNA or irrefutable signs of chloroform or decomposition inside the trunk of Ms. Anthony's car, where prosecutors said she stashed Caylee before disposing of her body. The prosecution was also hurt by the fact that nobody knows exactly when or how Caylee died...."

Another point of note is that even with all the resources available to the State, the prosecution could present no evidence that Casey was not a loving mother while Caylee was alive—no reports of her being distant or resentful, much less screaming at, hitting or abusing her.

These are not mere "technicalities"—they are gigantic gaping holes in a case. To put it simply, there was no compelling evidence that Caylee Anthony was murdered, much less that Casey did it, much less with premeditation. Even Marcia Clarke (the O. J. Simpson3 prosecutor), who sharply disagreed with the verdict, acknowledged the weaknesses of the prosecution case, and that the trial was fairly conducted by all involved.

And yet when the jury, which had sat through this for six weeks, reached its "not guilty" verdict, what was the reaction? An outpouring of outrage, anger and literal cries for blood, not only against Casey but even against the jurors, coming from Nancy Grace and friends, and spreading feverishly across the Internet.

Talk show host Julie Chen broke into tears when the verdict was announced; Grace, seeming like her head was going to explode, declared, "Somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight." Marcia Clarke said that this verdict was even more shocking than the acquittal of O. J. On the Internet and Twitter, people said things like: "They should allow stoning just for this matter" and "I hope she dies in hell."

On the day of sentencing, a protester carried a sign reading: "Jurors 1-12: Guilty of Murder," and one of the jurors has already gone into hiding out of fear of attack; death threats have been received by the Anthony family; and special security plans are being developed for the day Casey is released from jail. TV personalities openly gloat that there will be no place in the U.S. where she could live safely and peacefully, and that her life is effectively "over."

All this is not just confined to cable news and tabloids—the New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece by Frank Bruni titled, "A Sordid Cast Around Casey Anthony," which off-handedly declares that Anthony "in all likelihood bore responsibility" for her daughter's death, and then proceeded to focus his criticism on her attorneys, for such outrages as one of them giving the finger to a bunch of journalists who were following them after the trial, and dredging up another attorney's alleged failure to make child support payments while in law school. Nancy Grace comes in for passing criticism towards the end of Bruni's piece.

Within all this, the upholding of "belief" in opposition to science and critical thinking deserves attention. In one revealing comment, Nancy Grace said, "When you're in a court of law, you're held to a different standard. We are not in a court of law. We are not shrouded from the evidence." (my emphasis) But she pointed to no prosecution evidence that was kept from the jury. What Grace is really saying is that the jury, by being sequestered during the trial, was "shrouded" from the demagogy and hysteria that infected the media coverage and therefore the popular discussion of the case. The jurors were just about the only people in the U.S. who were able to look more or less dispassionately at and scientifically evaluate the actual evidence... and that is the problem, from the standpoint of Nancy Grace, and powerful forces behind her.

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

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