The coverage of Casey Anthony trial was a new low for the 24-hour cable news. The relentless coverage led by legal pundits spinning every fact was appalling.
As a former prosecutor and a veteran of trial lawyer, I must say the zeal with which the cable news stations turned a human tragedy into prime time entertainment was disconcerting.
Cases like OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony give the public a very skewed picture of our justice system. These cases do not represent the true day-to-day inner workings of our nation’s justice system.
In any given day, the nation’s criminal courts dispose of hundreds of criminal cases in varying stages of maturity. Some are dismissed due to lack of evidence, others are disposed of by plea agreements, and the rest are tried to verdict. Although some believe our system of justice lets criminals get away with murder, nothing can be further from the truth. In most criminal courts, the conviction rates are as high as 95%, depending on the jurisdiction and the policies of the local prosecutors.
But turning to the Anthony trial, “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard we use to evaluate the evidence against a defendant. In that sense, all the outrage expressed by the public is misplaced anger because the jury felt the state did not meet its burden of proof.
Although the media and the cable news pundits have expressed great admiration for the hard work of the Florida prosecutors, I have a different take on the skills with which the State tried this case. I think the prosecution team bears some responsibility for the outcome of the Anthony trial.
In my professional opinion, the prosecution erred when it charged Casey Anthony with the death penalty offense of murder in the first degree. There were too many unanswered questions for this to have been a death penalty offense.
For starters, the medical examiner could not determine the cause of death. The jury may have felt the prosecution was overreaching. The forensic science the prosecution offered to connect the remains of Caylee to the car driven by Casey Anthony was not widely accepted in the scientific community. This may have bolstered the defense’s argument that the state was desperate for a conviction. Lastly, the prosecution spent too much time in portraying the defendant as an irresponsible, party girl. That too may have backfired because being irresponsible does not make the defendant guilty of murder.
Although the untruthfulness of Casey Anthony during the 31 days after the disappearance of her daughter was relevant to the prosecution’s case, too much emphasis was placed on the defendant’s carefree life style. This may have conveyed an impression to the jury that the State of Florida was seeking a conviction for murder in the first degree solely based on character assassination.
Let’s be clear: Casey Anthony was not acquitted because of great advocacy on part of her defense team. She was acquitted because the state’s case as presented was wrapped in a shroud of unanswered questions and unconnected dots.
At the end, the legal system did work but there was no justice for little Caylee.