Celebrity status should not tread where Justice fails
After weeks of hearing testimony in the most highly publicized American trial of the past decade, the Orlando jury announced a verdict today in the Casey Anthony murder trial. The young woman accused of killing her own baby broke into tears at hearing the jury's decision, a decision that shocked the public and media alike: Not Guilty of first degree murder, Not Guilty of aggravated manslaughter and Not Guilty of aggravated child abuse. Although Anthony was found guilty on all lesser charges of lying to police, she has thus been cleared of killing her child, Caylee Anthony, and likewise escapes the possibility of execution.
Now that the trial is over I will admit I was shocked by the verdict. This prosecution's case, while based wholly on circumstantial evidence, seemed solid enough when cast against such an unbelievable defendant. Anthony's known traipsing over truth, her heartless behavior on the heels of her daughter's disappearance and the facts surrounding Caylee's recovered body all gave the impression that this woman had to have, at the very least, some knowledge of what happened to the baby. Adding to the culpability question was the defense team's shocking insertion that the baby had drowned and the claim that the entire matter was merely an accident that had snowballed out of control. Complicating matters further was the unsubstantiated allegation -apparently made to arouse jury sympathy- that Casey's father and brother had molested her. There was a host of other flaws to the defense's case, too many to go into here, but it is suffice to say there were enough of them to be pointed out by defense attorneys round the nation. In the end, despite all the conclusion most of the public had reached -one based, I'd dare say, on common sense and the human ability to sniff out a heinous individual when she's put in front of us- the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty in the murder and manslaughter charges.
Today on Fox News Judge Andrew P. Napolitano speculated, to the effect, that the verdict may have been quite different had the jury been allowed to convict Anthony of reckless or negligent homicide. But the prosecution didn't want to provide that option, and their drive to push jurors into believing Anthony had knowingly and with premeditation killed little Caylee could very well be the crux behind their verdict. I can see where this could be what happened. As despicable as Anthony is to me and others, it is no stretch of the imagination to say she is a narcissistic personality. We've all seen the family photos of mother and daughter. It is visually convincing that Anthony didn't harbor outright hatred for Caylee. Still, Anthony's documented activities and attitude point to an individual capable of inflicting a self-interested, thoughtless fatal injury to another person such as using chloroform to put someone considered an inconvenience to sleep, or taping their mouth in order to keep them conveniently quiet. After fatality occurs, a narcissistic person would think first and foremost of their own interests, and have no problem attempting to cover up their mess and/or making up wild, exaggerated tales to investigators. In such a situation the narcissist is certainly guilty of homicide, even if they had not premeditated their crime. This scenario may have been what the jurors concluded after hearing both sides of the case, and in their view could not in good conscience convict Anthony of first degree murder or aggravated manslaughter. And if indeed this is what happened, then the prosecution has itself to blame in part for this sorry act of justice for the victim.
I am infuriated by the fact that all too soon Casey Anthony will be walking free again. And with my outrage comes the sickening realization that now the trial is over Anthony and everyone involved in getting her freed will be making their fame and fortune over Caylee's death. I can see it now: book deals, movie deals, paid interviews with the same kind of magazines that George Anthony's alleged lover told (and sold) her story. Hollywood speculators are already waging bets on who will play Anthony in a hoped-for Lifetime movie (of note, Lifetime has previously said they have no intention of making such a movie). Still, the massive public fascination with this death and trial had already compelled some to throw decorum to the wind, e.g. the trashy fights between trial-goers hoping to get tickets and round-the-clock pundit coverage of the trial. It is not overstatement to say its a good chance we'll see some studio cashing in on the story, some publisher exploiting it with a hoped-for mega-bestseller or some publicity agent representing Anthony as their newest "star".
The probabilities are supported by the past. It wasn't that long ago that football celebrity OJ Simpson was cleared for the double-murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. After his exoneration Simpson went ont o write the controversial book "If I DID IT", a book that reads like a smug confessional slap in to faces of the victims' families.
Subsequently, the family of victim, Ronald Goldman, took Simpson to court in order to get rights and royalties from this book. But Simpson was still in the limelight, and in some circles embraced as a victim. That was until sometime later he was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery.
It is this kind of exploitation of victims that is almost as disgusting as crime itself. As a society our sense of taboo has lowered greatly. The frenzied desire to be entertained by the most intimate component of the gruesome has allowed us to throw away common sense. Also, we have succumbed to what I think are other tragic trends: making celebrities of physically attractive but very bad people and giving a pass to these new celebrities just because we feel compelled to be more sympathetic to attractive people. This flawed kind of sensibility is extended not just to accused murderers but those charged with lesser crimes such as theft, computer highjacking, assault and DUI. It is so common now that I can't help but wonder if this celebrity-making hasn't somewhere along the way made for seriously erred verdicts in courtrooms.
If I'm right and this trend continues then it won't be long until none of us -victim or accused, attractive or plain- can expect Justice to be there when we need it.