This case has consumed the public interest for the past three years. Casey Anthony was charged with first degree murder in the death of her 2 ½ year old daughter whose skeletal fragments were eventually found in a field, six months after she was reported missing by her mother who waited a full month before reporting her daughter's disappearance to the police.
As I was watching the "talking heads," almost all lawyers, on television before the jury returned its verdict, they were almost unanimous in declaring that Anthony would be found guilty of first degree murder and most concluded she would be given the death penalty. As most of you now know, she was acquitted on all charges of having anything to do with her daughter's death and convicted only on the four charges of providing false information to law enforcement personnel, all misdemeanors. She was sentenced by the judge on Thursday to the maximum one year per charge, to run consecutively, plus a one thousand dollar fine for each charge. Because she's already been in jail for three years plus the accumulation of time off for good behavior, she will be released from jail next week.
I went to Facebook shortly after the verdict was announced and wasn't surprised to see almost unanimous displeasure with the decision with many people saying it is a sad day for the criminal justice system and the judicial system.
Although I agree with their dismay over Anthony going free, I have to take exception that justice wasn't served. Our system of justice and our judicial system have been in place since the founding of this country. We're assured by the Constitution of the United States of a fair and impartial trial, held in open court, by a jury of our fellow citizens. In a felony trial, a unanimous verdict by all twelve jurors is required to either convict or acquit. If even one disagrees with the sentiments of the others, no judgment can be rendered and it would be up to the prosecution to re-file the charges. If a unanimous verdict of not guilty is delivered, the defendant can never again be charged for that particular crime in the same jurisdiction under another Constitutional provision that prohibits double jeopardy. In other words, the prosecution cannot appeal a not guilty verdict, nor can it re-file the charges.
As was mentioned on television, it's hard if not impossible to get 12 people to agree on what they want for lunch but in a felony trial, that's the rule and it has always been the rule. Law enforcement did their job, the prosecution did their job and the defense team did theirs as well. The instructions given by the judge to the jury includes the admonition that the defendant's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the jury to render a guilty verdict. Obviously, that did not happen. The case was entirely circumstantial with no direct evidence or testimony at all that linked Anthony to her daughter's death and that simply wasn't enough to convince the jurors of her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In fact, one juror said that the entire jury was "sick to their stomach" over the verdict but they had no other option other than the one they chose. The same juror also said their verdict didn't mean they thought Anthony was innocent of the charge but they had to find her not guilty because the prosecution didn't prove its case.
In a felony trial, it doesn't matter what a person or a group of people "think" happened. It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and if it isn't, they are required by the judge's instructions to render a verdict of not guilty and that's what happened.
So the question is, did Casey Anthony get away with murder? I think maybe she did but the prosecution failed to prove that to the satisfaction of the jury and that's all that counts. It's always interesting to me when a jury rules what we think is the wrong way how outraged so many of us become until we're faced with a similar situation and then we want the same constitutional protections afforded us that we think should have been denied to someone else.
The jury saw all the evidence, heard all the testimony, thoroughly discussed the merits and demerits of the case over a two-day period in the jury room and reached a unanimous verdict.
That's the way our judicial system is supposed to work and because it did, justice was served even if we individually disagree with the verdict.