I have never served on a jury in either a criminal or civil case, though twice during my time on active military duty I was an officer on court-martial panels (and, contrary to popular belief, found then to be extremely fair and impartial).
A couple of years ago I nearly made the cut for a murder trial, but my contention that I probably would want to hear from the defendant before making a final judgment disqualified me.
One other time I made it to a courtroom for the questioning stage, but never made it past the preliminaries. Meanwhile, a much older man who couldn’t follow the simplest of instructions was selected.
Most of the time when I have been called for jury duty, I have sat around all day and done some sketches of the nearby river during the noon hour, then gone home.
I say all this in way of background before I get to my topic today, which is the Casey Anthony murder trial. As you may have heard, the 25-year-old Orlando mother charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter got off pretty much free, found guilty only of giving false information to police officers.
Most of the television commentators were stunned by the verdict, much like they were when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the murder charges against him back in the mid-1990s.
I, too, thought that Casey Anthony was guilty, mostly because I couldn’t see any other reason for how her child died or why she had to lie to investigators. If it was an accident, why lie?
But I’m likely not as outraged as many seem to be and for a couple of reasons that are very opposed to each other.
No. 1, though I had the opportunity to watch more of Casey’s trial than I did the O.J. case, mostly because I had a real job (well, as real as a newspaper job is, which isn’t very real) back then, I still didn’t hear all the testimony that the jurors did, and that is important. News reports are going to go heavy on the dramatic aspects of what a witness says when the mundane may be just as vital. And I had no way of evaluating the truthfulness of the witnesses, which also is key.
No. 2, I got to see a lot of what the jurors didn’t. For instance, one of the commentators made the observation that when the jurors were present in the courtroom, Casey had a tendency to react more emotionally, crying at times, to what was being said on the stand or by the lawyers. When the jurors were not present, Casey was more composed, perhaps even cold.
Would that have influenced the jurors had they seen how Casey behaved? No way of knowing, of course, but it certainly could have.
For whatever reason, though, the jury was not convinced of Casey Anthony’s guilt, and so it set her free (less the penalties for lying to police). That’s our system.
It’s based on the principle set down by an English jurist, William Blackstone, back in the 18th Century: "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
I suspect that Casey Anthony is more likely among that ten than she would have been that one, but with our justice system, we have to live with it.
A PERSONAL NOTE: Yes, it has been a long while between blogs, and I hope I haven’t lost you all completely. I have really been tied in some other business, and that summer cold simply really sapped all my energy.
I’ll be back on a more regular basis from now on with a review and pictures of the new Jaguar XJL sedan coming up next!