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By Bill King

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

As the resident legal blogger, even though I’m not a criminal attorney, I feel compelled to comment on the jury’s verdict in the Casey Anthony case. While this happened in that other Orange County, the case has pretty much captivated a large portion of the population if FaceBook and Twitter are anything to go by. For those of you who live under a rock or simply don’t care about sensationalized court cases (especially after the OJ trial), today the jury acquitted Casey Anthony of the charges of killing her 2-year old daughter Cayley, either intentionally or negligently,  and also of any child abuse.

I don’t need to be the 100,000th person to write the prevailing opinion of the masses: “What a travesty our justice system is!” “That *&#$* got away with murder!” and so on…

Personally, I think she did it. I think her behavior (as submitted) and pathological lies are evidence enough, based on my experience with human behavior and, unfortunately, pathological liars. But I wasn’t on the jury. Twelve others were. And the thing I find most interesting is the jury vote: 12-0 as to each of the three major counts. 12-nothing?!

Now, when I looked at the jury pool yesterday, I saw a few biographies that made me assume Casey would have some support in the room. So, I knew Murder in the 1st was going to be tough to secure. But aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter? I thought for sure she’d be found guilty on one of these counts. The mere fact that one of Cayley’s post-deceased hairs was found in Casey’s trunk, the tape on over the mouth, and the confirmation of the death smell by several witnesses, including her own father, suggested Casey did something wrong.  But, clearly there were gaps that needed to be filled.

I even heard myself utter “uh oh” during Prosecutor Jeff Ashton’s closing argument when he said, “somebody in that house killed Cayley.” Yep, someone most likely did because that’s usually how murder goes . . . it’s someone close. But, he left the door wide open to reasonable doubt, or rather, he didn’t, but the facts did. For the record, I thought Ashton did a great job pointing out that only one person had something to gain by Cayley’s death. So, if we assume somebody in the house killed Cayley –accidental or otherwise– it was likely Casey.

But, 12-0. That’s a pretty resounding vote. What that tells me is that the prosecution was simply unable to connect the minimal dots they had available with all of the circumstantial evidence. Now, I don’t think Jose Baez was anything special and found him bumbling a lot during examination and cross-examination, oftentimes threatening his own defense. But, as he stated on Sunday, he didn’t have to present any testimony in Casey’s defense. It was up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey was guilty of the crimes being charged. And, according to the unanimity of the jury, they did not. If you remove your prejudices and desires for justice, and simply look objectively at what was presented to the jury, there was enough for them to vote either way.

We know Cayley died. We know some bad things happened. But we also know that the Anthony house is a den of liars. And that gives me enough doubt to wonder what the heck actually happened?! I trust Cindy’s hysterical phone call that she didn’t know anything. I also trust that she lied when it was convenient to protect her daughter. And brother Lee probably was as clueless as he appeared to be. So that leaves George, Casey and any number of cohorts (consider who she partied with) who may have done something stupid. So was it intentional or accidental? There’s limited evidence.

Liar, liar...

I agree with the prosecution that there is absolutely no reason to put three pieces of duct tape over a child’s face, but does that get me to intentional suffocation? Personally, yes, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. And the chloroform that was detected? I heard all kinds of testimony. I don’t now who to believe. I know who I wanted to believe.

But the bottom line is that nobody in the jury felt convinced by any sequence of evidence. And that speaks volumes about the case. Basically, they said, “I’m not putting someone away for life based on at least ten assumptions.” I respect the jury for that and I respect the system. I considered that if Casey had a life insurance policy on Cayley, the jury might have been convinced to vote guilty since other juries seem to convict for murders without a body based on much less evidence while factoring in greed. The “money” in this case was Casey’s independence and the thing she was greedy for, but the jury didn’t see it the way I would. And that, in my opinion is too bad.

I do believe the system works, but I also believe it has inherent flaws. Here’s a case where someone managed to stall and spoil the evidence long enough to make the prosecution’s job of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt very, very tough. And I hate to say it, but we live in a world now where almost anything can be thrown out there and will stick as “reasonable.” Consequently, it doesn’t take much for 12 people in a vacuum to decide that plausible = reasonable doubt.

If only this was a Law & Order episode. . .

Jack McCoy plays every card...

Then Jack McCoy would press charges against the parents and Casey would come running with a confession (before double jeopardy kicked in). But, who am I kidding? A sociopath wouldn’t come to the rescue of anyone.

But, I digress. I’d like to see someone write a book entitled, “12-0″ because that’s the one thing that keeps me level-headed about what was, yes, a travesty today.

Keep the Faith,



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