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On Principle and Pragmatism VII - Waiting for Justice: The Casey Anthony/Caylee Anthony Murder Trial 
THE SCALES OF JUSTICE
AN E-MAIL was sent to CNN HLN which was read on-air that said something to effect they, the writer, "hoped, now that the prosecution has rested [in the Casey Anthony murder trial] and the defense has started its case, things don't get sidetracked because 2-year old Caylee Anthony [whom Casey is accused of murdering] is waiting for Justice!"
WAITING FOR JUSTICE ... powerful, emotional words; words meant to reach to the core of each American citizen's soul because justice is one of the foundational principles upon which our society rests. It was born from the lack of justice proto-Americans received at the hands of the British; at least for those that fled Britain because of religious oppression, and later when Britain tried to assert its control of the colonies when King George III took the throne.
After the newly minted American's wrested our freedom from the British, the States and the Federal governments established their respective Constitutions. Each Constitution, in varying degrees of emphasis, was intended to protect the rights of the citizen from the coercive power of the State. These rights included such things as "innocent until proven guilty". protection from self-incrimination, trial by a jury of your peers, speedy trial, and a host of other well known rights designed to prevent innocent people being trampled by a zealous prosecutor or a vindictive politician; a very common practice then and still today, even in America.
"Waiting for Justice" might have meant what it sounds like sometime in the past; but, today it is simply a slap-in-the-face to personages like Pericles, Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Edmund Burke, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, and Barach Obama, all of whom understood or, for those still alive, understand what justice truly means in America; the theory of justice which was in the minds of the founding fathers with they approved the Bill of Rights.
The sad truth today, however, is "waiting for justice" is just code for "Find Them Guilty Now!; they can prove their innocence later." From the context of the e-mail sent to CNN HLN, to which I referenced above, it is pretty clear the writer had no interest in listening to the defense; that she thought putting on the defense was not needed; instead, she just wanted the trial over with a guilty verdict handed down for Casey Anthony because "everybody" knows she killed her daughter in the manner and method asserted by the prosecution.
WHERE JUSTICE IN THE U.S. WAS PUT DOWN ON PAPER
JUST WHAT DOES THE CONSTITUTION SAY?
I KNOW this kind of un-American sentiment to be widespread because I have personally run into it from people, strangers, family, and friends whom I know or have met in California, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, and Florida; not one of them of the moderate or liberal persuasion of either party, I might add.
There are many places in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights where its writers inserted language to protect American citizens from the coercive powers of the local, State, and Federal governments. Everyone of them had their foundation in the excesses of King George III's rule over the colonies as he sought to bring the colonies into line.
- Article I, Section 2: "The House ,,, shall have the sole power of Impeachment"
- Article I, Section 3: "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all Impeachments"
- Article I, Section 9: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in the time of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."
- Article I, Section 9: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed"
- Article I, Section 10: " No State shall ... Pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post fact Law. or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or ... "
- Article II, Section 2: "The President ... shall have the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in the Cases of Impeachment."
- Article II, Section 4: "The President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office upon Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."
- Article III, Section 1: "The judicial Power of the United States shall be invested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.... "
- Article III, Section 2: "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, the Treaties made, or shall be made under their Authority; ... ; - to Controversies between two or more States: - [between a State and Citizens of another State]11; - between Citizens of different States;- between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, [and between a State, or Citizens thereof, foreign States, Citizens, or Subjects.]11
- Article III, Section 2: "In all Cases ... in which a State shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all of the Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Equity, under such Regulation as the Congress shall make."
- Article III, Section 3: "The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases by Impeachment; shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where said Crimes shall have said to have been committed; but, when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be held in such Place or Places where the Congress may by Law have directed."
- Article IV, Section 2: Clause 1: "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."; Clause 2: " A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime."; Clause 3: "(No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.)" (This clause in parentheses is superseded by the 13th Amendment.)
- Article VI, Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
- Amendment I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
- Amendment IV: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
- Amendment V: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
- Amendment VI: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
- Amendment VII: "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."
- Amendment VIII: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
Such were the provisions of the original Constitution and the first 10 Amendments. Subsequent to the original document, additional Amendments, such as the 13th referenced above, have been added to modify the original intent or cover areas not already considered. They are:
- Amendment XI: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State."
- Amendment XIV: "1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
There are several other Amendments which bear on the rights of individuals such as the 13th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th, which all have to do with the right to vote or citizenship.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE INNOCENT
EVERY ONE OF THOSE REFERENCES in the first section above, as I said, are intended to prevent government from abusing its vast power over its citizens, something the framers of our Constitution felt King George III and the English Parliment had done to the Colonies prior to the Revolution. The remaining Amendments that are mentioned, save for the 24th and 26th, have to do with overcoming the despicable acts done in the name of prejudice and bigotry in America.
In standing up for the innocent, John Adams, in his successful defense of the British soldiers who fired upon the colonists in the Boston Massacre, prevented the nascent Americans from railroading these men into an unfair outcome based solely on the blazing emotions present at the time. In fact, what Adams' proved was that the "Massacre" was actually engineered by the men opposed to the English occupation of Boston; the English, of course, saw things differently since this was their territory to begin with. (I find it a bit ironic that these "patriots" would probably be tried as terrorists today.) It is this principle of actual justice based on facts and procedure that John Adams' risked his life and limb, let alone his reputation, for and what the writers tried to imbue into the Constitution.
In my view, the great debate over American Justice in this country comes down this fundamental question, "Should the Innocent pay in order to ensure the conviction of the Guilty?" It is the answer to this single question that determines how, in a practical way, we approach Justice in the United States. Why should that be so?
Because how you feel about the relationship of the Innocent to the Guilty paints your perspective in vibrant colors; there really isn't much in the way in shades of gray, when you think about it. If a prosecutor believes it is better to convict a few extra innocent citizens so that he or she makes sure all of the truly guilty are put in jail will determine how they prepare for the trial; whether they tip-toe along the line of prosecutorial misconduct; in not considering the possibility that the defendant is actually not guilty and go looking for someone else before actually going to trial; or whether to give the defense a hard time by not complying with the spirit of the 6th Amendment. On the other hand, if you think the way those who wrote the Constitution did, and take the job of convicting the guilty while minimizing the suffering of the innocent seriously, then they are being the really true American by approaching Justice the way it was meant to be applied.
For example, a prosecutor who actually understands what American justice is all about won't stack a jury with all white Southern men, when the defendant is Black, while, on the other hand, a prosecutor who only cares about convictions will. This is simply because the former wants a fair trial, the latter wants a win; both consider that justice in the U.S. The American public is likewise split, generally along political lines, I am afraid. If you are left of center, you are more likely to believe a few guilty should go free rather than convict the innocent wrongfully, while those on the right of center often believe just the opposite: and, I am not making that up! That assertion is from over a half a century of observations, of squabbling with people about why it is not right to convict innocent people just because you want to catch more guilty people, and even watching the conversations here in Hub World.
Once you figure out (it really is a gut feeling, isn't it) which side you stand on, then your logic process follows along, diverging widely from those who went the other direction. Consequently, the lady who wrote the e-mail I started this hub with probably believes it is better to convict a few extra innocent people so that we can be sure to convict a lot more that are guilty. On the other hand, while I also believe Casey Anthoney is guilty of killing her daughter, I need for the State to prove it, and if the State can't, then one needs to look at what they did wrong, if anything. In this case, they did lose, but I am not sure the Florida prosecution did anything wrong, except maybe bringing, or at least emphasizing the wrong charges to start with in their zeal to get a popular conviction - death, which many translate as Justice for Caylee.
THE GUILTY - ALMOST
WHAT WENT "WRONG" AT THE CASEY ANTHONY MURDER TRIAL?
NOTHING, REALLY, THE PROSECUTION SIMPLY FAILED to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, to 12 jurors that all of the elements of proof for first degree murder had been met in their case against Casey Anthony. The prosecution, in trying to prove first degree murder, had a very tough row to hoe, and they simply didn't convince any of the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that all of the elements of proof had been met by the State.
So, what are these "elements of proof" that are so critical to a finding which would allow people to say, "Caylee found Justice"? There aren't many really, and most date way back to English Common Law, upon which our American legal system is based. For first degree murder, in the state of Florida (it varies by state), those elements of proof are:
- the killing was unlawful
- it was a human that was killed
- the killing was with "malice"
- and for Florida, it must be done "purposefully"
If the prosecution cannot prove just one of those elements, then the State has not made its case and the jury must find not guilty, which, as we all know, is not the same as innocent. Implicit in all of those elements is one other, a fifth element that sometimes can be very difficult to prove if there is no body, "was there a killing at all?"
What many Americans have a problem with in our justice system is that "of course there was a killing (as in the case of Caylee before the body was found), common sense tells you that, you un-American dummy!" is simply not the same as "proving" there is a killing, which is the burden the State has. Why does the State have what some think is such an onerous burden? To prevent prosecutors from bending to the will of mass hysteria of the public or the ill-will of public officials, something common before these rules were put in place.
How does the Casey Anthony case stack up to these elements of proof? Because of the claims which Casey Anthony made regarding the whereabouts of Caylee, the State was having a very hard time even proving a "killing" had taken place, legally. It was only when the body of Caylee was found and identified was this element of proof settled, as was the element requiring the killing be of a human. But, what about the others? Was it "unlawful" or "with malice" or "on purpose (premeditated)"; those are much tougher.
The circumstances of where Caylee was found make a very strong case for an "unlawful" death; there was nothing natural about the location, state of the body, and debris and other evidence scattered around the body. Further, you have the evidence of the body being bound and transported in the car trunk, etc. All-in-all, pretty clear evidence Caylee didn't die accidentally or naturally. That is three of the five the jury should have had no problem with. That leaves us with "Malice" and "Purposefulness".
"Malice" is defined as committing an unlawful act (a) purposely, (b) knowingly or (c) recklessly. Further, in order to get to first degree murder, you have to establish malice before you establish premeditation; however, even if the State fails here, the jury can find for the lesser included charge of second degree murder. The State also brought Aggravated Manslaughter and Aggrevated Child-Abuse charges as well, arguing that each was a separate and distinct crime. Even if true, and I have some hesitation in accepting the State's logic, several of the elements of proof are still the same, i.e., 1, 2, and 5. The jury found Casey not guilty on all of those.
For Aggravated Manslaughter, in addition to 1, 2, and 5, the State must prove 1) the killing was of a person under the age of 18, 2) the death was from "culpable negligence", 3) the death is without lawful justification, and 4) the death cannot be classified as an excusable homicide or murder. For Aggravated Child-Abuse, the State must show that a person had 1) committed aggravated battery on a child; 2) willfully tortured, maliciously punished, or willfully and unlawfully caged a child; or 3) knowingly or willfully abused a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child. It is extremely telling how weak the prosecution's evidence was for the jury not to find Casey Anthoney guilty of something other than lying; and they did want to find her guilty.
WHAT DID THE CASEY ANTHONY JURY FIND?
THAT, AS JUROR #3 PUT IT, "it's easier for me logically to get from point A to point B" via the defense's argument, as opposed to the prosecution's argument. I have to give a standing ovation to the Casey Anthony jury for being true Americans and for taking the beliefs of our founding fathers to heart and using their head, rather than their heart. They freely admit that if they let their emotions dictate the verdict, Casey Anthony would be in jail awaiting the death penalty. Instead, they honored the theory behind the American justice system and considered the evidence presented by the State, and found it very wanting. For example:
- They did not find George Anthony credible, in fact, they believed him to be dishonest
- They simply didn't buy the prosecutions motive for the murder, "to go out and party"
- They didn't even think the State was able to show even what the crime actually was
Further, it didn't take them very long to come to this conclusion, two or three ballots, I believe. One has to wonder that if the prosecution had focused more on "negligence" and "willfulness" rather than "malice", "premeditation", and hitting a home run with the death penalty, the jury wouldn't have come back with a guilty verdict to the lesser charges. But, even that may be debatable given their distrust of George Anthony and the alternative theory that the defense put out about his involvement. What is clear though, the jury did have, and should have had, reasonable doubt.
My wife and I very quickly came to the conclusion that Casey Anthony more than likely did not, with malice aforethought, kill Caylee Anthony. Likewise, we never had any doubt that Casey did kill Caylee, the question was always why and how. But with the prosecution so focused on getting the big win, they lost sight of true justice.