Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Not Guilty'

by Katherine Scardino

I have read about all I care to read about Casey Anthony. But, it appears that the news media and every other American citizen have opinions about this woman.

The bottom line is this: Twelve members of a jury listened to every single word of the testimony and examined every single piece of evidence presented by the state of Florida in an attempt to convince each of them to render a verdict of guilty to capital murder. Each of those 12 people, plus the alternates, sat in the courtroom and listened to every single word each lawyer said to them during voir dire (jury selection).

Jury selection is the only time during a trial when the jurors and the lawyers, both for the defense and for the state, get an opportunity to have a conversation. That means that if there is any part of the conversation they do not understand, the juror can stop the lawyer and ask any question he or she wants answered. Their questions sometimes include the meaning of a legal term, or it might be a question about a hypothetical situation that a lawyer presents to the group of potential jurors in an effort to educate each juror about the facts they will be deciding, without giving the specific facts about their case.

In other words, a defense lawyer or a prosecutor is not allowed–at least in Texas–to stand in front of the jury panel and tell them the facts of their particular case. The lawyer may only present facts to them in a hypothetical situation to try and determine how that specific juror feels about a certain topic or whether that juror has had any experience with that specific topic. The easiest example would be a driving-while-intoxicated trial. The defense lawyer wants to find out the drinking habits of the juror, or whether he or she is a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). So, the hypothetical would contain facts close to, but not exactly the same, as the case on trial.

The Casey Anthony jury was sequestered. That means they went to a hotel each night with no televisions of any kind and no newspapers. They did not listen to all the Nancy Grace hype and the other screaming “talking heads,” nor did they read any of the newspapers relaying every opinion from every goofball who appeared in Florida to stand on the street in front of the courthouse each day.

Because of the sequestration, they were forced to make a legal decision based solely on the law given to them by the lawyers and, more importantly, by the judge without the extraneous information the rest of the world got. That is the way our rules and our Constitution are set up to prevent jurors from being influenced by outside opinions and the popular news media. The Constitution enforces our laws that state an accused person should be judged based solely on the law and the facts.

So, can we please accept the fact that Ms. Anthony’s jury acted fairly and nonprejudicially, and rendered a verdict in accordance with their instructions from the judge. You do not have to agree with it, nor do you have to like it. But, it is what it is. If you will stop for a moment and remember all the exonerations we have read about within just the last year. For a while there in Texas it seemed like we were releasing people on a weekly basis from prison after many years for a crime that person did not commit. Our system is not 100-percent perfect–ask my client, Anthony Graves, who was released after 18 years on death row once it was concluded by prosecutors after a first-time only competent investigation that he was in fact innocent. Many people have been released who have spent more years locked up than Mr. Graves.

So, if we all believe Casey Anthony is guilty but the jury believed otherwise, accept the jury’s verdict and get on with your lives. The system worked perfectly here. The 12 jurors did not believe the prosecutor proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she murdered (intentionally taking another person’s life) her baby girl. They rendered a verdict they believed was the right one.

Now the news media is all in an uproar about the fact that Ms. Anthony is having to return to Florida to complete her probationary period. That is not much for murder. But remember, this probation is not for murder; it is for theft–stealing her friend’s checkbook, or some such thing. You want her to be inconvenienced in some manner for taking the life of her baby. But I don’t believe this will do it for you.

Take a deep breath. Remember our Constitution and our rules that we all have to obey. And, leave Casey Anthony alone. It is over. The jury has rendered a true verdict. And, these jurors do not have to answer to anyone, and especially not to Nancy Grace or any of the other media. Their deliberation and their verdict is their secret. It is really none of our business now.

Photo Credits: turtlemom4bacon; Caveman Chuck Coker; Lee Bennet


Anonymous said...

Finally some words of reason in the midst of the modern witch-hunt that the Casey Anthony trial turned into. Well spoken ms. Scardino

Susan K said...

Thank you for reminding people that the facts and law as presented in the courtroom are all that count. The prosecution has to make its case there.
By the way, in Massachusetts the jury selection and voir dire is completely different from what you describe.

A Voice of Sanity said...

If Anthony is murdered while in Orlando, can Judge Perry be tried under the law of parties? Or will the 8th and 14th prevent this (Enmund v. Florida 458 US 782, 1982)?

Anonymous said...

Casey could very well be in danger. I am sure that there are several people in the state with more guns than brains who would love to blow her away in a fit of misguided "righteousness".
However it would be wrong to lay the blame on the judge whom I think genuinely tried to run a fair process. The real culprit is the DA's office who callously sacrificed Casey to the media for the sake of political gain and popularity.

Sandy said...

I find it very hard to believe that the Pinellas 12 rendered a verdict based on their consideration of the facts in evidence. They were eager to leave their 'prison' hotel and get back to their lives. They judged the lawyers on their delivery and at least one juror has admitted being pressured into a decision. This was not our Constitution in action, but mob rule in the jury room.

Anonymous said...

Since this is coming from a defense attorney's perspective, I cannot say I am surprised. I will be looking up authors before reading next time.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Sandy said: "I find it very hard to believe that the Pinellas 12 rendered a verdict based on their consideration of the facts in evidence."

Then you are a poor thinker. Several people have taken the jury charge (which is posted online) and tried to apply the known facts to it. No one has been able to conclude her guilt based on that charge and the salient facts.

I note you didn't try.

TJ said...

A Voice of Sanity said to Sandy:

"Then you are a poor thinker. Several people have taken the jury charge (which is posted online) and tried to apply the known facts to it. No one has been able to conclude her guilt based on that charge and the salient facts.

I note you didn't try."

How do you know Sandy didn't try? What a ludicrous statement. Several defense lawyers have reviewed the charge and the evidence and have reached a very different conclusion from the author, and apparently you. They agree with Sandy. Why do you think people are up in arms about this verdict? I guess the only ones that are upset are poor thinkers...I just put my thinking cap on. You are right - there was no evidence that Casey did anything to her daughter. The DA was grasping at straws. LOL - puhleeze. Justice was not served in this case.

ZoomBroom#1 said...

If Casey Anthony is at risk, it is HER problem, not that of the judge or prosecution. If some lunatic harms her, the issue can be addressed at that time. Just like her daughter's death. The difference would be...her daughter WAS innocent.