“Not guilty” verdicts

I think I was the only person in America who did not follow the Casey Anthony story at all.   The prospect of a mother murdering her own little girl was too horrible for me to contemplate.  But now that the mother has been acquitted of the crime I am hearing about it a lot, to the effect that a monstrous killer has gotten off.

Feel free to venture your opinion, but also read Uwe Siemon-Netto’s Blog: MEDIA MATTERS: The Casey Anthony story – a farewell to journalism.  The conservative Lutheran journalist from Germany just excoriates the media for trying the case outside of the courtroom and for whipping up the public into a lynch mob.  Does he have a point?

Say the jury made a mistake, that she actually did that  heinous crime, and yet the non-guilty verdict makes her legally innocent and sets her free.  You know the indignation you feel?  That’s how our Accuser, Satan, feels at God’s verdict on us, His forensic declaration that we sinners are “not guilty” for Jesus’ sake.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fws

    Justice was done. This is exactly what it looks like when it is done.

    The jurors are very praiseworthy. They were diligent and did their duty and so, it appears, did the judge. I read that the judge gave the prosecution every motion they wanted . It sounds like the jury followed jury instructions to the very letter.

    This is a great example of the “rule of Law”. As opposed to what? “rule of men” also called “rule by decree”.

  • fws

    Justice was done. This is exactly what it looks like when it is done.

    The jurors are very praiseworthy. They were diligent and did their duty and so, it appears, did the judge. I read that the judge gave the prosecution every motion they wanted . It sounds like the jury followed jury instructions to the very letter.

    This is a great example of the “rule of Law”. As opposed to what? “rule of men” also called “rule by decree”.

  • fws

    and whatever the truth really is…. the Law will have it’s way. to whatever extent and for whatever reason there are guilty parties that were not found guilty in court, the Law, that God has devinely written in the Minds of each of us, will simply hound those persons to death. The Law will have its way , the Law will get its man or woman always. The Law always accuses. And so eventually, God’s Will, WILL be done.

  • fws

    and whatever the truth really is…. the Law will have it’s way. to whatever extent and for whatever reason there are guilty parties that were not found guilty in court, the Law, that God has devinely written in the Minds of each of us, will simply hound those persons to death. The Law will have its way , the Law will get its man or woman always. The Law always accuses. And so eventually, God’s Will, WILL be done.

  • Charles B. Burhop

    Exactly the way satan feels… A most excellent point!

  • Charles B. Burhop

    Exactly the way satan feels… A most excellent point!

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    The only person with the right to judge the jury was the trial judge. He entered the verdict. This means that his judgment was that the jury fulfilled its vocation according to the law.

    Similarly, the only person with the right to judge whether the prosecution proved their case was the jury, and their judgment was that the prosecution failed in that task.

    In a press conference, the prosecution agreed. They said that it was the jury’s task to determine whether they’d proven their case and the judgment was that they had not. End of discussion.

    We need to be careful to judge in areas where we have not been given authority. It was true in the OJ case, and it’s true now.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    The only person with the right to judge the jury was the trial judge. He entered the verdict. This means that his judgment was that the jury fulfilled its vocation according to the law.

    Similarly, the only person with the right to judge whether the prosecution proved their case was the jury, and their judgment was that the prosecution failed in that task.

    In a press conference, the prosecution agreed. They said that it was the jury’s task to determine whether they’d proven their case and the judgment was that they had not. End of discussion.

    We need to be careful to judge in areas where we have not been given authority. It was true in the OJ case, and it’s true now.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    To NOT judge…

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    To NOT judge…

  • Rose

    Perhaps Casey chloroformed her child so she could go dancing and one night she overdosed her.
    But Caylee’s father was equally negligent and irresponsible.
    We need to point out, over and over, that it’s a father’s responsibility to protect his children beginning at conception.
    Why don’t we do this, gentlemen?

  • Rose

    Perhaps Casey chloroformed her child so she could go dancing and one night she overdosed her.
    But Caylee’s father was equally negligent and irresponsible.
    We need to point out, over and over, that it’s a father’s responsibility to protect his children beginning at conception.
    Why don’t we do this, gentlemen?

  • Joe

    Rose – in this case the father is either dead or unknown.
    http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20503504,00.html

    I believe that the jury did its job well. They were presented with a largely circumstantial case and did not feel that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In an interview, one of the jurors stated that the prosecution never put on a theory as to how the girl was killed. If you can’t prove how – its even harder to prove who.

    Also, like the OJ case, the prosecution decided to put a lot of emphasis on a new technology that is largely unproven. For OJ it was DNA testing. For Ms. Anthony it was some sort of methodology whereby they could test an order to determine its cause (in this case – literally the smell of death in the trunk of her car).

  • Joe

    Rose – in this case the father is either dead or unknown.
    http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20503504,00.html

    I believe that the jury did its job well. They were presented with a largely circumstantial case and did not feel that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In an interview, one of the jurors stated that the prosecution never put on a theory as to how the girl was killed. If you can’t prove how – its even harder to prove who.

    Also, like the OJ case, the prosecution decided to put a lot of emphasis on a new technology that is largely unproven. For OJ it was DNA testing. For Ms. Anthony it was some sort of methodology whereby they could test an order to determine its cause (in this case – literally the smell of death in the trunk of her car).

  • Dennis Peskey

    Does he (Uwe Siemon-Netto) have a point? Apparently, I’ve been unable to locate the bottom of American journalism, i.e. how low can they go? I can not speak to the Anthony trial other than report she was declared not guilty. So be it for this is how our judicial system is structured.

    The media, however, has taken upon itself to stage a seperate trial with a verdict preordained. This circus has done great damage to our judicial system for a democracy requires the consent and conviction of the representative peoples to function properly. This morning, CNN reported a Florida lawmaker is proposing a new law to restrict jurors from telling their “stories” to “news” outlets for six months after a trial. This lawmaker’s concern was the influence a “not guilty” verdict would generate in swaying a juror’s rendering (he believed the juror’s may consider the financial upsurge in returning an unpopular verdict.)

    Uwe laid much of the blame for this irresponsible and irrational reporting on Rupert Murdoch, to wit I concur. His media empire is not driven by tradition journalistic standards (real fair and balanced reporting as opposed to this phrase as a slogon by a certain Murdoch owned network.) Mr. Murdoch does operate on a very solid Biblical principle – he fully understands the phrase “itching ears” and is willing to sacrifice both standards and truth to scratch his listeners.

    Mr. Murdoch is not the first media guru (Mr. Hearst comes to mind) to comprehend the simplicity of the masses which does not speak well for a democracy. Fortunately, our court system is somewhat buffered from the arena of public opinion which makes the proposed legislation from that particular Florida representative all the more disturbing. For the rest of us, this is our government and it has done its job. There will be one more verdict rendered but it will not come from our will – for this we can thank God.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Does he (Uwe Siemon-Netto) have a point? Apparently, I’ve been unable to locate the bottom of American journalism, i.e. how low can they go? I can not speak to the Anthony trial other than report she was declared not guilty. So be it for this is how our judicial system is structured.

    The media, however, has taken upon itself to stage a seperate trial with a verdict preordained. This circus has done great damage to our judicial system for a democracy requires the consent and conviction of the representative peoples to function properly. This morning, CNN reported a Florida lawmaker is proposing a new law to restrict jurors from telling their “stories” to “news” outlets for six months after a trial. This lawmaker’s concern was the influence a “not guilty” verdict would generate in swaying a juror’s rendering (he believed the juror’s may consider the financial upsurge in returning an unpopular verdict.)

    Uwe laid much of the blame for this irresponsible and irrational reporting on Rupert Murdoch, to wit I concur. His media empire is not driven by tradition journalistic standards (real fair and balanced reporting as opposed to this phrase as a slogon by a certain Murdoch owned network.) Mr. Murdoch does operate on a very solid Biblical principle – he fully understands the phrase “itching ears” and is willing to sacrifice both standards and truth to scratch his listeners.

    Mr. Murdoch is not the first media guru (Mr. Hearst comes to mind) to comprehend the simplicity of the masses which does not speak well for a democracy. Fortunately, our court system is somewhat buffered from the arena of public opinion which makes the proposed legislation from that particular Florida representative all the more disturbing. For the rest of us, this is our government and it has done its job. There will be one more verdict rendered but it will not come from our will – for this we can thank God.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Rose

    Joe @ 7:
    Yes, I had seen that article.
    My timeline is back at conception.
    Caylee has a father (perhaps now deceased) who failed to protect her.
    He will be held accountable for this sin some day, don’t you agree?
    Men, placing all the responsibility for promiscuity on women has made a hash of family life not to mention God’s will.
    Why don’t we hear men deploring other men’s promiscuity?

  • Rose

    Joe @ 7:
    Yes, I had seen that article.
    My timeline is back at conception.
    Caylee has a father (perhaps now deceased) who failed to protect her.
    He will be held accountable for this sin some day, don’t you agree?
    Men, placing all the responsibility for promiscuity on women has made a hash of family life not to mention God’s will.
    Why don’t we hear men deploring other men’s promiscuity?

  • Allan

    Mr. Siemon-Netto gets it exactly right. The public commentary in the studio and outside the courthouse grounds has been a buffet for psychological observation. This whole ordeal has opened my eyes to just how much freedom of the press has become libertinism of the press, to how much we do not understand about our constitution, and to how much people confuse justice with revenge.

    The process actually was encouraging, as it showed that some people in this country are still willing to follow the letter of the law,
    as opposed to arbitrary power on one hand or pure democratic mob rule on the other. Those who say this trial proved our system doesn;t work, I think are redefining “works”. “Works” to these people simply means “does it get the right (re: my opinion) result”.
    They fail to see that IF it was them on trial, and IF they were actually innocent, our system works by protecting them from being charged as guilty on the basis of circumstances alone. One view is about getting results, the other view is about following order, law, etc. If anything, I think this should motivate prosecutors to do their job better, instead of being over-confident even in what seems to be an easy case.

    I think one’s answer to the following is a helpful tool to search our hearts about our deeper motivations and beliefs:
    Which is worse- wrongly convicting an innocent person, or wrongly acquitting a guilty person?

  • Allan

    Mr. Siemon-Netto gets it exactly right. The public commentary in the studio and outside the courthouse grounds has been a buffet for psychological observation. This whole ordeal has opened my eyes to just how much freedom of the press has become libertinism of the press, to how much we do not understand about our constitution, and to how much people confuse justice with revenge.

    The process actually was encouraging, as it showed that some people in this country are still willing to follow the letter of the law,
    as opposed to arbitrary power on one hand or pure democratic mob rule on the other. Those who say this trial proved our system doesn;t work, I think are redefining “works”. “Works” to these people simply means “does it get the right (re: my opinion) result”.
    They fail to see that IF it was them on trial, and IF they were actually innocent, our system works by protecting them from being charged as guilty on the basis of circumstances alone. One view is about getting results, the other view is about following order, law, etc. If anything, I think this should motivate prosecutors to do their job better, instead of being over-confident even in what seems to be an easy case.

    I think one’s answer to the following is a helpful tool to search our hearts about our deeper motivations and beliefs:
    Which is worse- wrongly convicting an innocent person, or wrongly acquitting a guilty person?

  • Cincinnatus

    Dennis: Actually, I think Nancy Grace was the real villain here, and she is a creature, if I recall, of CNN, not Murdoch.

    I didn’t follow this case either–yet another cute white girl murdered? *yawn*; thousands of others children were murdered during the three years of these trial proceedings–but from what I understand after the fact, it’s quite clear that the system did not work and that justice was not, contrary to what fws claims, done. It was obvious that something suspicious, if not first-degree murder, was done to Casey Anthony’s daughter by Casey.

    Criminal justice systems exist exclusively to ensure that crimes are appropriately and publicly punished by the commonwealth–i.e., that justice is served to the victim of the crime, which in every case is the entire body politic (in modern understandings; Caylee or whatever the heck her name was is not the only victim here). Yes, the structures and formalized rules of our criminal justice system provide abundant protections to ensure that the accused is not hastily or unfairly convicted, but the system doesn’t exist -for- the accused. If it did, there would really be no point. It’s quite nifty that our justice system provides these protections for the accused (in my opinion, quite possibly too many), but, within the category “criminal justice systems,” extensive protections for the accused are ultimately optional, subsidiary to the actual purpose of the system. The purpose of a justice system is, again, to ensure that crimes do not go unpunished. The primary advantage our system has over those of more “primitive” societies is that it ostensibly provides a formalized mechanism for ending the eternal cycles of (privatized but still legitimate) vengeance that characterized the blood feuds of past epochs.

    Fact: the United States suffers from a dearth of able prosecuting attorneys (or maybe they’re all trying trumped up drug cases). All this chatter about how the acquittal demonstrates that the system “works” is hogwash. Sure, we have here a rare instance when a jury apparently drew a reasonable conclusion from the evidence presented (if ignoring truckloads of circumstantial evidence is the rule of the day now), but the real story here is that equally integral components of the criminal “justice” system utterly failed in their duties–I speak here, of course, of the prosecuting attorney, an agent of the state empowered to protect the interests and safety of the people. I.e., to bring justice to the people.

    So I do take exception not only to the media-inflamed lynch mob but also to the detached celebrations of these supposedly more “rational” and tempered observers.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dennis: Actually, I think Nancy Grace was the real villain here, and she is a creature, if I recall, of CNN, not Murdoch.

    I didn’t follow this case either–yet another cute white girl murdered? *yawn*; thousands of others children were murdered during the three years of these trial proceedings–but from what I understand after the fact, it’s quite clear that the system did not work and that justice was not, contrary to what fws claims, done. It was obvious that something suspicious, if not first-degree murder, was done to Casey Anthony’s daughter by Casey.

    Criminal justice systems exist exclusively to ensure that crimes are appropriately and publicly punished by the commonwealth–i.e., that justice is served to the victim of the crime, which in every case is the entire body politic (in modern understandings; Caylee or whatever the heck her name was is not the only victim here). Yes, the structures and formalized rules of our criminal justice system provide abundant protections to ensure that the accused is not hastily or unfairly convicted, but the system doesn’t exist -for- the accused. If it did, there would really be no point. It’s quite nifty that our justice system provides these protections for the accused (in my opinion, quite possibly too many), but, within the category “criminal justice systems,” extensive protections for the accused are ultimately optional, subsidiary to the actual purpose of the system. The purpose of a justice system is, again, to ensure that crimes do not go unpunished. The primary advantage our system has over those of more “primitive” societies is that it ostensibly provides a formalized mechanism for ending the eternal cycles of (privatized but still legitimate) vengeance that characterized the blood feuds of past epochs.

    Fact: the United States suffers from a dearth of able prosecuting attorneys (or maybe they’re all trying trumped up drug cases). All this chatter about how the acquittal demonstrates that the system “works” is hogwash. Sure, we have here a rare instance when a jury apparently drew a reasonable conclusion from the evidence presented (if ignoring truckloads of circumstantial evidence is the rule of the day now), but the real story here is that equally integral components of the criminal “justice” system utterly failed in their duties–I speak here, of course, of the prosecuting attorney, an agent of the state empowered to protect the interests and safety of the people. I.e., to bring justice to the people.

    So I do take exception not only to the media-inflamed lynch mob but also to the detached celebrations of these supposedly more “rational” and tempered observers.

  • Joe

    Rose @ “He will be held accountable for this sin some day, don’t you agree?” I don’t know but my hope for him is the same as my hope for myself – that on Judgment Day he will be acquitted by the undeserved Grace of Christ.

  • Joe

    Rose @ “He will be held accountable for this sin some day, don’t you agree?” I don’t know but my hope for him is the same as my hope for myself – that on Judgment Day he will be acquitted by the undeserved Grace of Christ.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Cincinnatus (#11) I will grant the obvious, that Nancy Grace is of CNN origins – but she is a long way back on this express train of “journalism” hell. The current prime mover (or engineer to maintain the metaphor) is Rupert Murdoch which is where Uwe, myself and many reputable journalists lay the blame for the misgivings of our journalistic freedoms.

    To your second point, “It was obvious that something suspicious, if not first-degree murder, was done to Casey Anthony’s daughter by Casey” I must concede that the presence of a corpse is a clear indicator of “something suspicious.” The entire purpose of this trial was to establish responsibility for a criminal act. The juries’ verdict for Casey was not-guilty; so be it. I do not find any cause for celebration regarding the still lifeless corpse of her daughter; however, I am not in a position of knowledge to ascribe blame to the prosecution for incompetency or lack of effort. Perhaps you have addition insight which you would be willing to share for our edification.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Cincinnatus (#11) I will grant the obvious, that Nancy Grace is of CNN origins – but she is a long way back on this express train of “journalism” hell. The current prime mover (or engineer to maintain the metaphor) is Rupert Murdoch which is where Uwe, myself and many reputable journalists lay the blame for the misgivings of our journalistic freedoms.

    To your second point, “It was obvious that something suspicious, if not first-degree murder, was done to Casey Anthony’s daughter by Casey” I must concede that the presence of a corpse is a clear indicator of “something suspicious.” The entire purpose of this trial was to establish responsibility for a criminal act. The juries’ verdict for Casey was not-guilty; so be it. I do not find any cause for celebration regarding the still lifeless corpse of her daughter; however, I am not in a position of knowledge to ascribe blame to the prosecution for incompetency or lack of effort. Perhaps you have addition insight which you would be willing to share for our edification.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Reasonable verdict; largely circumstantial case where it wasn’t clear what the cause of death was. The accused did prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was a creep by allowing a search to go for a body when she knew where it was, and yes, this possibly did prevent people from figuring out how she died.

    Either way, nobody who is respectable is ever going to deal with this woman in her life absent clear evidence of her repentance (at least from teh creepiness), so her sentence for this is….within herself.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Reasonable verdict; largely circumstantial case where it wasn’t clear what the cause of death was. The accused did prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was a creep by allowing a search to go for a body when she knew where it was, and yes, this possibly did prevent people from figuring out how she died.

    Either way, nobody who is respectable is ever going to deal with this woman in her life absent clear evidence of her repentance (at least from teh creepiness), so her sentence for this is….within herself.

  • Ryan

    The jury did their job, there was no solid evidence linking her to the murder… Plenty of Other weird things. Look at it is way, I would rather have a jury of my peers working within the law than mob rule based on we “know” happened regardless of lack of solid evidence and trial. There is no happiness in this case, the media was awful as was the crime. You. Know what burns me though, in the last few years as this was developing, as well as during the trial… There were plenty of tragedies occurring with children, including abuse and murder and none reported by the big news.

  • Ryan

    The jury did their job, there was no solid evidence linking her to the murder… Plenty of Other weird things. Look at it is way, I would rather have a jury of my peers working within the law than mob rule based on we “know” happened regardless of lack of solid evidence and trial. There is no happiness in this case, the media was awful as was the crime. You. Know what burns me though, in the last few years as this was developing, as well as during the trial… There were plenty of tragedies occurring with children, including abuse and murder and none reported by the big news.

  • David Mueller

    Innocent until proven guilty–*of the specific crime charged*; and guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are the 2 over-arching principles that a jury is *required* to follow. Having just served on a jury for a 2-day trial for a man charged with 2 counts, I have a much greater appreciation for these principles. Convicted on teh 1st charge, acquitted on the 2nd, though we all agreed the defendant *probably* was actually guilty. Acquitted because the state did not present evidence that went beyond reasonable doubt, despite what we figured *probably* was the truth of the situation.

    The Anthony jury seems from all the “evidence” the media has presented to us, to have fulfilled their very specific office. If anyone deserves criticism, best that I can tell, it would be the prosecution, for “going for broke”, going after 1st degree murder. That charge was not provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • David Mueller

    Innocent until proven guilty–*of the specific crime charged*; and guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are the 2 over-arching principles that a jury is *required* to follow. Having just served on a jury for a 2-day trial for a man charged with 2 counts, I have a much greater appreciation for these principles. Convicted on teh 1st charge, acquitted on the 2nd, though we all agreed the defendant *probably* was actually guilty. Acquitted because the state did not present evidence that went beyond reasonable doubt, despite what we figured *probably* was the truth of the situation.

    The Anthony jury seems from all the “evidence” the media has presented to us, to have fulfilled their very specific office. If anyone deserves criticism, best that I can tell, it would be the prosecution, for “going for broke”, going after 1st degree murder. That charge was not provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think it is interesting to look at this case in historical context. 100 years ago, this woman would have been hung, probably within the month. However, I have suspected for a while that as DNA testing gains traction (and as inmates are released for false incarceration), it will become the new minimum standard for establishing guilt. Without a positive identification presented in a case, circumstantial evidence will continue to decline in value. At least, it seems like this is where we are headed.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think it is interesting to look at this case in historical context. 100 years ago, this woman would have been hung, probably within the month. However, I have suspected for a while that as DNA testing gains traction (and as inmates are released for false incarceration), it will become the new minimum standard for establishing guilt. Without a positive identification presented in a case, circumstantial evidence will continue to decline in value. At least, it seems like this is where we are headed.

  • Cincinnatus

    John: Agreed. The increasing fixation upon physical evidence is, I think, ultimately to our detriment. An example of our becoming servants of technology rather than vice versa.

    Note: I’m not arguing that Casey Anthony should have been hanged “within the month”–I lack the knowledge, like most of the American public, to draw an authoritative conclusion in her case. But many others have remarked upon the problematic nature of regarding physical evidence–preferably DNA–as the only acceptable standard in criminal trials. It used to be that, if one could be placed at the scene of the crime with a discernible motive and means, one could be convicted–and rightly so! Now, none of that matters (even Anthony’s car trunk, redolent of a decaying human flesh!) if we can’t find DNA evidence. CSI has ruined our perception and perhaps even our conduct of criminal investigations.

    And yeah, I’ll say it: I think we are today far too concerned with the rights of the accused. Protections for the accused are crucial, but as I said earlier, they should not obstruct the actual cause of public safety and justice. But maybe I’m just not sold on the idea of procedural justice.

    /nostalgic for the days of summary execution? Just kidding! (or am I?)

  • Cincinnatus

    John: Agreed. The increasing fixation upon physical evidence is, I think, ultimately to our detriment. An example of our becoming servants of technology rather than vice versa.

    Note: I’m not arguing that Casey Anthony should have been hanged “within the month”–I lack the knowledge, like most of the American public, to draw an authoritative conclusion in her case. But many others have remarked upon the problematic nature of regarding physical evidence–preferably DNA–as the only acceptable standard in criminal trials. It used to be that, if one could be placed at the scene of the crime with a discernible motive and means, one could be convicted–and rightly so! Now, none of that matters (even Anthony’s car trunk, redolent of a decaying human flesh!) if we can’t find DNA evidence. CSI has ruined our perception and perhaps even our conduct of criminal investigations.

    And yeah, I’ll say it: I think we are today far too concerned with the rights of the accused. Protections for the accused are crucial, but as I said earlier, they should not obstruct the actual cause of public safety and justice. But maybe I’m just not sold on the idea of procedural justice.

    /nostalgic for the days of summary execution? Just kidding! (or am I?)

  • trotk

    Cincinnatus, I am inclined to agree with you.

    I served on a jury last summer. A drunk driver crashed his car into a house during the night. The firefighters found him behind the wheel and drunk. His lawyer argued that this was not “proof” that he had driven the car, and concocted a story about another driver who fled after the crash. All the rest was circumstantial evidence that we should dismiss.
    Nonetheless, we found him guilty. Circumstantial evidence is actually evidence, and although not always watertight, enough of it can pile up to prove something beyond a “reasonable” doubt. A farfetched, concocted story (eg – my father abused me, and that is why I didn’t mention that my daughter drowned) that explains away all the circumstantial evidence is not “reasonable.” The story offered in the Anthony case was the legal equivalent of a Deus ex machina, and it is not laudable that the jury ignored the mountains of circumstantial evidence.
    I do think that CSI and the like have convinced us that there is always a photograph or fingerprint or DNA sample that proves something perfectly. There isn’t, and circumstantial evidence should have been enough to convict the mother here. I chalk up this failure to the persuasiveness of the defense (in explaining away the circumstantial and creating the Deus ex machina) and the failure of the prosecutors.

  • trotk

    Cincinnatus, I am inclined to agree with you.

    I served on a jury last summer. A drunk driver crashed his car into a house during the night. The firefighters found him behind the wheel and drunk. His lawyer argued that this was not “proof” that he had driven the car, and concocted a story about another driver who fled after the crash. All the rest was circumstantial evidence that we should dismiss.
    Nonetheless, we found him guilty. Circumstantial evidence is actually evidence, and although not always watertight, enough of it can pile up to prove something beyond a “reasonable” doubt. A farfetched, concocted story (eg – my father abused me, and that is why I didn’t mention that my daughter drowned) that explains away all the circumstantial evidence is not “reasonable.” The story offered in the Anthony case was the legal equivalent of a Deus ex machina, and it is not laudable that the jury ignored the mountains of circumstantial evidence.
    I do think that CSI and the like have convinced us that there is always a photograph or fingerprint or DNA sample that proves something perfectly. There isn’t, and circumstantial evidence should have been enough to convict the mother here. I chalk up this failure to the persuasiveness of the defense (in explaining away the circumstantial and creating the Deus ex machina) and the failure of the prosecutors.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    Thankfully, the only exposure I had to the trial was a half hour of being trapped in a room with FOX news while an anchor and Nancy Grace (yes, she was indeed on FOX) discussed the evidence and, best they could in tone, roused the rabble.

    The whole thing illustrated yet another reason I don’t watch the major news networks: rarely is it NATIONAL news. More often it is something spectacular and opinion-rousing, but about which none of the the viewers can do a thing but opine. (see also: Rep. Weiner)

    Thank you for the admonition at the end. There was recently another event in very conservative circles where a fictional right-wing terrorist cried via video “Give me liberty or give me death.” The room erupted with “Give him death!” I can only wonder why we are so quick to condemn, who know what we have been forgiven. And how–we, after all, gave Him death.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    Thankfully, the only exposure I had to the trial was a half hour of being trapped in a room with FOX news while an anchor and Nancy Grace (yes, she was indeed on FOX) discussed the evidence and, best they could in tone, roused the rabble.

    The whole thing illustrated yet another reason I don’t watch the major news networks: rarely is it NATIONAL news. More often it is something spectacular and opinion-rousing, but about which none of the the viewers can do a thing but opine. (see also: Rep. Weiner)

    Thank you for the admonition at the end. There was recently another event in very conservative circles where a fictional right-wing terrorist cried via video “Give me liberty or give me death.” The room erupted with “Give him death!” I can only wonder why we are so quick to condemn, who know what we have been forgiven. And how–we, after all, gave Him death.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    Also, “Twelve Angry Men” should be required viewing for all grade-school students.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    Also, “Twelve Angry Men” should be required viewing for all grade-school students.

  • trotk

    “Say the jury made a mistake, that she actually did that heinous crime, and yet the non-guilty verdict makes her legally innocent and sets her free. You know the indignation you feel? That’s how our Accuser, Satan, feels at God’s verdict on us, His forensic declaration that we sinners are “not guilty” for Jesus’ sake.”

    This comparison is interesting, and although the point of comparison (Satan’s indignation) is right on, the rest of the details imply something that isn’t true.

    We are actually innocent now. She isn’t (assuming she did this). Acquittal does not create innocence, it merely relieves one from the penalty. Christ didn’t just acquit us, He actually transferred righteousness to us. A jury never declares someone innocent or righteous, instead they declare that the evidence doesn’t necessarily show guilt. There is a fundamental difference between the positive state Christ puts us in and the non-negative state a jury puts us in. We are therefore justified to feel anger that justice hasn’t been served here, as opposed to Satan, who is wrong to feel anger, because justice has been served. (Although it would be more surprising to find Satan exhibiting correct or justified anger.)

    Colin, there is a difference between a Christian being quick to condemn personally and a Christian wanting the civil government to do its job, which is to protect the innocent by punishing the criminal. As Cincinnatus said above, we are giving the accused more protection than we give the victim.

  • trotk

    “Say the jury made a mistake, that she actually did that heinous crime, and yet the non-guilty verdict makes her legally innocent and sets her free. You know the indignation you feel? That’s how our Accuser, Satan, feels at God’s verdict on us, His forensic declaration that we sinners are “not guilty” for Jesus’ sake.”

    This comparison is interesting, and although the point of comparison (Satan’s indignation) is right on, the rest of the details imply something that isn’t true.

    We are actually innocent now. She isn’t (assuming she did this). Acquittal does not create innocence, it merely relieves one from the penalty. Christ didn’t just acquit us, He actually transferred righteousness to us. A jury never declares someone innocent or righteous, instead they declare that the evidence doesn’t necessarily show guilt. There is a fundamental difference between the positive state Christ puts us in and the non-negative state a jury puts us in. We are therefore justified to feel anger that justice hasn’t been served here, as opposed to Satan, who is wrong to feel anger, because justice has been served. (Although it would be more surprising to find Satan exhibiting correct or justified anger.)

    Colin, there is a difference between a Christian being quick to condemn personally and a Christian wanting the civil government to do its job, which is to protect the innocent by punishing the criminal. As Cincinnatus said above, we are giving the accused more protection than we give the victim.

  • Cincinnatus

    As trotk notes, comparisons with Christ and Satan are completely off-target. Two Kingdoms, anyone? The entire purpose of the criminal justice system is to find, declare, and punish unjust deeds as defined by the state. Is the state “Satan” in this analogy?

    A very real and practical problem on evidence here is, as I briefly observed above, a dearth of able prosecutors. Seldom does one hear of “star prosecution teams” or “powerhouse prosecutors.” No, criminals–the more heinous the crime, the better, due to the perverse incentives of our media culture–assuming they or someone they know can afford it, are treated to hyper-competent defense attorneys who make six and seven figures per annum. Meanwhile, prosecutors are (comparatively) underpaid and overworked. In addition, they are generally regarded unfavorably by much of the public and they often face political pressures, as they are elected in many communities. There is little incentive to become a prosecuting attorney except a personal desire to seek justice–a motive which doesn’t pay the bills. Young attorneys of high promise are much more likely to choose the lucrative path of defense.

    I don’t have any ready solutions to offer, but this is a striking problem that, as I understand it, was on full display during the Anthony trial. Prosecutors, let us not forget, are an equally integral component of a functioning criminal justice system as juries.

  • Cincinnatus

    As trotk notes, comparisons with Christ and Satan are completely off-target. Two Kingdoms, anyone? The entire purpose of the criminal justice system is to find, declare, and punish unjust deeds as defined by the state. Is the state “Satan” in this analogy?

    A very real and practical problem on evidence here is, as I briefly observed above, a dearth of able prosecutors. Seldom does one hear of “star prosecution teams” or “powerhouse prosecutors.” No, criminals–the more heinous the crime, the better, due to the perverse incentives of our media culture–assuming they or someone they know can afford it, are treated to hyper-competent defense attorneys who make six and seven figures per annum. Meanwhile, prosecutors are (comparatively) underpaid and overworked. In addition, they are generally regarded unfavorably by much of the public and they often face political pressures, as they are elected in many communities. There is little incentive to become a prosecuting attorney except a personal desire to seek justice–a motive which doesn’t pay the bills. Young attorneys of high promise are much more likely to choose the lucrative path of defense.

    I don’t have any ready solutions to offer, but this is a striking problem that, as I understand it, was on full display during the Anthony trial. Prosecutors, let us not forget, are an equally integral component of a functioning criminal justice system as juries.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    I agree, we should want to protect the innocent by punishing the criminal. But the anger that I have heard and seen people express is not the solemn anger of justice thwarted (and corresponding confidence that God will repay), but a visceral certainty that SHE IS THE CRIMINAL and therefore to be punished.

    Say the jury did make a mistake. Perhaps she is guilty, and the system does give too many protections. Again, I didn’t follow it and had no desire to, so I know less about that than most. But most know a lot less about it than the jurors. Well, if the jury did fail, given the information they had, then they erred in their vocation. But, given the information they had (again, more than any of us), they decided they could not find find her guilty. I am sure that they will always wonder whether or not they did the right thing, and there is neither need nor call for us to add to the weight on their shoulders. My point is only that we–myself included–are far too fond of casting stones.

    To get back to the original article: “In a free society, journalists are not called to be jurors or judges. The rabble out in the streets has no such vocation either, regardless of its prejudice. Jurors and judges are called to be jurors or judges; they alone.” That is spot on.

  • http://blodskald.wordpress.com/blog Colin

    I agree, we should want to protect the innocent by punishing the criminal. But the anger that I have heard and seen people express is not the solemn anger of justice thwarted (and corresponding confidence that God will repay), but a visceral certainty that SHE IS THE CRIMINAL and therefore to be punished.

    Say the jury did make a mistake. Perhaps she is guilty, and the system does give too many protections. Again, I didn’t follow it and had no desire to, so I know less about that than most. But most know a lot less about it than the jurors. Well, if the jury did fail, given the information they had, then they erred in their vocation. But, given the information they had (again, more than any of us), they decided they could not find find her guilty. I am sure that they will always wonder whether or not they did the right thing, and there is neither need nor call for us to add to the weight on their shoulders. My point is only that we–myself included–are far too fond of casting stones.

    To get back to the original article: “In a free society, journalists are not called to be jurors or judges. The rabble out in the streets has no such vocation either, regardless of its prejudice. Jurors and judges are called to be jurors or judges; they alone.” That is spot on.

  • helen

    I think I was the only person in America who did not follow the Casey Anthony story at all. –Dr. Veith

    No, there are at least a couple of us here who do not “do” the social media, and I don’t watch TV much either. So I was surprised to hear that “the whole world’s attention for three years” has been concentrated on a murder trial in Florida. Or so I read.

    That must be why Christians can be murdered in [newly democratic!?] Egypt; Christian Pastors can get the death penalty in Iran for their faith; Christian laity can get killed in almost any majority muslim country in the world including some where they have coexisted with muslims for a couple of centuries (awa India which has only had Christians for about 2000 years but suddenly can’t abide them!) [Iraq's Christians date back to St Paul's time.]

    All this, without a murmur (so far as I know) from the main stream media or its readers/watchers. My, all y’all have been busy!

  • helen

    I think I was the only person in America who did not follow the Casey Anthony story at all. –Dr. Veith

    No, there are at least a couple of us here who do not “do” the social media, and I don’t watch TV much either. So I was surprised to hear that “the whole world’s attention for three years” has been concentrated on a murder trial in Florida. Or so I read.

    That must be why Christians can be murdered in [newly democratic!?] Egypt; Christian Pastors can get the death penalty in Iran for their faith; Christian laity can get killed in almost any majority muslim country in the world including some where they have coexisted with muslims for a couple of centuries (awa India which has only had Christians for about 2000 years but suddenly can’t abide them!) [Iraq's Christians date back to St Paul's time.]

    All this, without a murmur (so far as I know) from the main stream media or its readers/watchers. My, all y’all have been busy!

  • steve

    My post may be a little off the point but I keep thinking about Dr. Veith’s first statement that the “prospect of a mother murdering her own little girl was too horrible for me to contemplate.” Is it really necessary that we, as a society, contemplate such things? It’s necessary that law enforcement, judges, juries, etc. contemplate such things in the course of their duties, but do we need to be participating is if with a bowl of popcorn and a soda in our hands? The Anthony trial is just one small example of what we consume on a daily basis calling it “staying informed”. We here on the West coast have been inundated in recent days with the story of a wife who drugged her husband then removed a particularly valuable part of his masculinity. It’s been on nearly every news broadcast nearly every hour of the day since it happened. Clearly, the fact that the press this story has gotten far outweighs its particular newsworthiness tells us our appetite is not simply to stay informed. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, did we sacrificed the advice Paul gave to the Philippians for the sake of news and news for the sake of entertainment? I keep wondering when the proverbial Monk is going to walk out onto the Colosseum floor.

  • steve

    My post may be a little off the point but I keep thinking about Dr. Veith’s first statement that the “prospect of a mother murdering her own little girl was too horrible for me to contemplate.” Is it really necessary that we, as a society, contemplate such things? It’s necessary that law enforcement, judges, juries, etc. contemplate such things in the course of their duties, but do we need to be participating is if with a bowl of popcorn and a soda in our hands? The Anthony trial is just one small example of what we consume on a daily basis calling it “staying informed”. We here on the West coast have been inundated in recent days with the story of a wife who drugged her husband then removed a particularly valuable part of his masculinity. It’s been on nearly every news broadcast nearly every hour of the day since it happened. Clearly, the fact that the press this story has gotten far outweighs its particular newsworthiness tells us our appetite is not simply to stay informed. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, did we sacrificed the advice Paul gave to the Philippians for the sake of news and news for the sake of entertainment? I keep wondering when the proverbial Monk is going to walk out onto the Colosseum floor.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Yes, yes, let’s all complain about how terrible the media was for attempting to create a parallel justice system, trying people in the court of public opinion … and then let’s just do the same thing here, in the comments! But it’s okay, because we’re not the media, we’re just having a conversation?

    I’m admittedly ignorant about this trial. The first I heard of it was when my Facebook feed started filling up with indignation over a trial I didn’t know we were all following. Naturally, I went to CNN.com (“Breaking news, but also mostly completely overwhelming inanity”) to learn what I was missing.

    And maybe I’d be more inclined towards Cincinnatus’ views if I hadn’t read so many stories about people — usually black men — being declared innocent after years (often decades) of incarceration, because the now-available DNA evidence trumped then then-available circumstantial evidence.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Yes, yes, let’s all complain about how terrible the media was for attempting to create a parallel justice system, trying people in the court of public opinion … and then let’s just do the same thing here, in the comments! But it’s okay, because we’re not the media, we’re just having a conversation?

    I’m admittedly ignorant about this trial. The first I heard of it was when my Facebook feed started filling up with indignation over a trial I didn’t know we were all following. Naturally, I went to CNN.com (“Breaking news, but also mostly completely overwhelming inanity”) to learn what I was missing.

    And maybe I’d be more inclined towards Cincinnatus’ views if I hadn’t read so many stories about people — usually black men — being declared innocent after years (often decades) of incarceration, because the now-available DNA evidence trumped then then-available circumstantial evidence.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@27: Good points. I should state that, given the evidence with which they were supplied for the charges before them, the jury apparently made the correct (as distinct from “just” or “right”) decision. I’ve heard that, probably due to some dazzling exploitation of technicalities by the defense, the jury was not privy or not supposed to consider a substantial portion of the rather damning circumstantial evidence on hand. Nonetheless, I’m still comfortable claiming that the system failed here.

    And the system fails frequently: how many people–to use your words, “usually black men”–are locked up in cells for years and years for trumped up possession charges while an apparent murder (and many like her) are walking the streets?

    As for DNA evidence: I can’t speak to how many–apparently, there are “so many,” and most of them apparently involve racism–people have been falsely convicted in ages prior to our obsessions with “scientific” evidence. Incorrect convictions are, as St. Augustine noted, a tragic consequence of the necessity of judging in an ordered republic. The fact that they occasionally happen is no reason to throw the whole thing out. That said, exonerating an innocent prisoner seems a prime example of using technology to serve the cause of justice rather than vice versa. Flip-side: the justice system is presently clogged with thousands of (mostly bogus) DNA appeals by prisoners hoping to delay sentences or get out on technicalities. That, plus the entire procedure of exoneration via DNA evidence strikes me as problematic: it’s one thing to confirm an alibi via DNA, but it’s another thing entirely to exonerate someone, as often happens, because his DNA isn’t present or because someone else’s is. Sorry, the presence or absence of a few molecules can’t build or destroy entire narratives as often as we want to think.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@27: Good points. I should state that, given the evidence with which they were supplied for the charges before them, the jury apparently made the correct (as distinct from “just” or “right”) decision. I’ve heard that, probably due to some dazzling exploitation of technicalities by the defense, the jury was not privy or not supposed to consider a substantial portion of the rather damning circumstantial evidence on hand. Nonetheless, I’m still comfortable claiming that the system failed here.

    And the system fails frequently: how many people–to use your words, “usually black men”–are locked up in cells for years and years for trumped up possession charges while an apparent murder (and many like her) are walking the streets?

    As for DNA evidence: I can’t speak to how many–apparently, there are “so many,” and most of them apparently involve racism–people have been falsely convicted in ages prior to our obsessions with “scientific” evidence. Incorrect convictions are, as St. Augustine noted, a tragic consequence of the necessity of judging in an ordered republic. The fact that they occasionally happen is no reason to throw the whole thing out. That said, exonerating an innocent prisoner seems a prime example of using technology to serve the cause of justice rather than vice versa. Flip-side: the justice system is presently clogged with thousands of (mostly bogus) DNA appeals by prisoners hoping to delay sentences or get out on technicalities. That, plus the entire procedure of exoneration via DNA evidence strikes me as problematic: it’s one thing to confirm an alibi via DNA, but it’s another thing entirely to exonerate someone, as often happens, because his DNA isn’t present or because someone else’s is. Sorry, the presence or absence of a few molecules can’t build or destroy entire narratives as often as we want to think.

  • Suzanne

    Two things stand out for me. We don’t often hear of the “star” prosecution teams because those stars know that they can make tons of money in the private sector. I don’t want to get into a discussion on taxation here, but in our fervor to cut taxes, we need to understand what that money buys. You get what you pay for.
    The media no doubt played a role in keeping this story alive, but we all love the free market, and we see it at work here. The market will bear what sells, and crap like this sells. If people didn’t respond, it wouldn’t be on tv or in the paper. Plain and simple. I guess I don’t blame the media; they are simply a business doing business in America.

  • Suzanne

    Two things stand out for me. We don’t often hear of the “star” prosecution teams because those stars know that they can make tons of money in the private sector. I don’t want to get into a discussion on taxation here, but in our fervor to cut taxes, we need to understand what that money buys. You get what you pay for.
    The media no doubt played a role in keeping this story alive, but we all love the free market, and we see it at work here. The market will bear what sells, and crap like this sells. If people didn’t respond, it wouldn’t be on tv or in the paper. Plain and simple. I guess I don’t blame the media; they are simply a business doing business in America.

  • SKPeterson

    Although the media may have tried this case in the public and lost one that maybe they should have won. They have won cases in the media and the courts that have destroyed people’s lives and livelihoods without a moments regret a la the McMartin Preschool satan-worshipping-child-molesters-in-day-cares hysteria that swept the nation in the 1980′s. No apologies. No self-examination by prosecutors or press on the perversion of justice and the sending of innocent people to jail – the one thing our system is supposed to desire above all.

  • SKPeterson

    Although the media may have tried this case in the public and lost one that maybe they should have won. They have won cases in the media and the courts that have destroyed people’s lives and livelihoods without a moments regret a la the McMartin Preschool satan-worshipping-child-molesters-in-day-cares hysteria that swept the nation in the 1980′s. No apologies. No self-examination by prosecutors or press on the perversion of justice and the sending of innocent people to jail – the one thing our system is supposed to desire above all.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 27:

    Yes, yes, let’s all complain about how terrible the media was for attempting to create a parallel justice system, trying people in the court of public opinion … and then let’s just do the same thing here, in the comments! But it’s okay, because we’re not the media, we’re just having a conversation?

    There’s a difference between hyping and trying a case in the media (or elsewhere) before the actual trial takes place, and discussing the trial and its outcome afterward, as is being done here, no? The premise of this discussion is not inappropriate at this point in time, but prejudicing potential juries before the accused has her day in court should be an important consideration prior to trial. I’m not blaming the media — they have a job to do, and are going to do it. But, I would like to see the police being more circumspect in the details they release about a crime pending charges, and both the prosecution and defense under gag orders prior to trial on these kinds of high-profile cases, so that juries can truly evaluate the important evidence for the first time in court.

    As for this case, one problem the prosecution had was overcharging the case. They didn’t ever seem to have the evidence to realistically sustain a capital murder charge. I know she was also acquitted of aggravated manslaughter, but maybe if the prosecution hadn’t brought the death penalty charge, they could have presented the case more realistically and won the jury over for manslaughter. You really have to hype up a capital murder case, and the prosecution couldn’t deliver what it promised. So, the jury basically threw out the whole case, except for the misdemeanors.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 27:

    Yes, yes, let’s all complain about how terrible the media was for attempting to create a parallel justice system, trying people in the court of public opinion … and then let’s just do the same thing here, in the comments! But it’s okay, because we’re not the media, we’re just having a conversation?

    There’s a difference between hyping and trying a case in the media (or elsewhere) before the actual trial takes place, and discussing the trial and its outcome afterward, as is being done here, no? The premise of this discussion is not inappropriate at this point in time, but prejudicing potential juries before the accused has her day in court should be an important consideration prior to trial. I’m not blaming the media — they have a job to do, and are going to do it. But, I would like to see the police being more circumspect in the details they release about a crime pending charges, and both the prosecution and defense under gag orders prior to trial on these kinds of high-profile cases, so that juries can truly evaluate the important evidence for the first time in court.

    As for this case, one problem the prosecution had was overcharging the case. They didn’t ever seem to have the evidence to realistically sustain a capital murder charge. I know she was also acquitted of aggravated manslaughter, but maybe if the prosecution hadn’t brought the death penalty charge, they could have presented the case more realistically and won the jury over for manslaughter. You really have to hype up a capital murder case, and the prosecution couldn’t deliver what it promised. So, the jury basically threw out the whole case, except for the misdemeanors.

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