Monday, July 11, 2011

Reasonable doubt in the American Justice System

The whole country, it seems, has been in an uproar since a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter three years ago. Newspaper websites, radio call-in shows, Facebook and Twitter have all been inundated with people expressing outrage in the jury's finding.  Every poll shows that people overwhelmingly believe Casey is guilty.  Most people believed a guilty verdict had been a foregone conclusion.

Good thing for Casey that her fate was not determined by the court of public opinion, but rather by 12 people who sat through hours of testimony and evidence and who were not convinced enough of her guilt.  With the Prosecutors having put the death penalty on the table, I think that's a good thing.  I also believe that this case is a good argument against the death penalty.

In the last 38 years, 139 people have been released from death row because they were found to be innocent of the crimes of which a jury found them guilty.  There is no way to know how many innocents have been executed.  As long as the death penalty is a method of punishment in this country innocent people will die, because the system is not infallible.  Guilty ones will also go free because juries will be hesitant to convict anyone to death - especially a pretty young, white woman like Casey Anthony - even in the face of convincing circumstantial evidence.

Like most people, I believe Casey Anthony is guilty. However, I was more convinced of her guilt by her defense's tactics, than by the prosecutors' arguments and evidence.  After careful thought, that would not have been enough for me to convict her to death either. I suspect I, and the jury, would have felt easier sending her to life in prison.

Now Ms. Anthony just has to hope Nancy Grace or Bill O'Reilly, or one of the many other crazies unhappy that she got off, don't run her over as she is released on July 17.


  1. Agreed. When the death penalty is on the table, there should be absolutely no doubt. Even the reasonable doubt standard may be too low when someones life is at stake.

    In this case, i wouldnt have been surprised if the jury found her guilty but I'm not mad at the vedict. I went to law school wth a guy who served 10 years (his whole sentence) for a rape that he did jot commit. These atrocities happen way too often. As the saying goes, it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than for an innocent man to spend one night in jail.

  2. Agreed. If there is a scintilla of doubt, particularly in a death penalty case, then you cannot convict. I believe that the death was unintentional, but that's just my conviction.

    It is fascinating to see the country in such an uproar over this because the justice system works both ways. Would they have been as outraged if the evidence was extremely flimsy but she was convicted, put to death, and it was later found that someone else killed the child? Where would the justice have been then? Could we then have overturned the conviction and brought Casey back to life? I think not. Let it go, folks. We have to move on.