There are phrases that talking legal heads - and folks with legal or criminal justice degrees - start using around this time in a trial that fall on deaf ears. "Burden of Proof," being chief among them. This is usually accompanied by the "Presumption of Innocence." In the United States the legal burden of proof - meaning the burden to prove someone's guilt or innocence - does not lie with the accused; it lies with the prosecution.
In a case such as this, as is with most criminal proceedings, they must prove something called 'Reasonable Doubt.' Reasonable Doubt is the highest legal standard of proof, and it means that the prosecution must prove the case in such a way that the opposite - the defendant's innocence - could not be reasonably believed.
So, without rehashing every bit of evidentiary support, we just need to understand that the prosecution presented a scenario: Casey Anthony killed her daughter and dumped her body in the woods after keeping it in her car. The defense presented a different scenario: Casey Anthony's daughter drowned in the family swimming pool, and Casey conspired to hide the body and lied to police as to the whereabouts of her daughter. Both presented evidence to support their claims.
Now, it is not about believing in one story or another. The verdict does not necessarily reflect that the jury believed the defense's story. It simply reflects that they felt there were enough holes in the prosecution's argument to cause reasonable doubt. They felt there were too many questions unanswered, chief among them was "How did Caylee Anthony die?" Again, this is what the jurors who are speaking to the media are saying. They believed too many questions left unanswered.
The CSI Effect: There's a problem unique to the new millennium called the CSI effect. Basically, it means that there is an over-saturation of forensic evidence based television shows that have warped the minds of the public into thinking the volume and type of forensic evidence done on television should be done with every case every time. Not only is this not possible due to extreme financial restrictions, it is also not feasible for most cases.
A quick example: At the time that I received my degree in Criminal Justice (2009), I was allowed to take a few courses in forensics and criminal profiling as an advanced degree credit. Now, by no means am I a criminal profiler or a forensic specialist, but I came to quickly realize a few things. Tire tread matching is often used in shows like CSI to rule out potential suspects and point a search in the right direction. It is used so often on these shows, that it is - many times - the first search that they run when tire tread is found. There's a bit of a problem with this...
There is only one facility in America (at the time of my instruction) that can process tire tread samples to get a match. And it's not in Las Vegas. Or New York. Or Miami. It's in Detroit, Michigan. (You know, where they make most of the cars and tires.) So, those folks on TV can't scan in tire tread and run a 5 minute search. In fact they can't scan it in at all. They have to make a mold of it and send it to Detroit and wait 6 months. Oh yeah, there are so many samples sent in - and it costs so much money - that you are looking at a minimum of 6 months to get back your results. 6 months is a long time in the life of a criminal trial.
The CSI Effect & Casey Anthony: Many articles have come out in the last couple of days attributing the verdict to the aforementioned CSI Effect. I have linked to a Washington Times article I found rather enlightening on the subject. The speed and volume at which we see forensic evidence piling up on television creates a burden of proof called 'Beyond the Shadow of Doubt.' This burden of proof is a non-legal standard that means the conviction is 100% beyond reproach. The reason this is a non-legal standard is because many philosophers and criminologists believe it is an impossible standard, something that cannot be reached simply due to what knowledge is. What a human can know beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Normally, I would summarize this all and attempt to make a point that challenges the comfortable mentality. The comfortable mentality here is to hate Casey Anthony. But, instead, I'd like to quote from the linked Washington Times article by Jim Picht:
The obvious reason is that being a juror entails more responsibility than being an observer. In the comfort of your living room, you can shout "guilty" in the knowledge that no one will die, hence you can be wrong without consequences. It's easy to make coaching decisions, investment decisions, and form opinions of guilt and innocence when nothing is at stake.
When we're more concerned about justice for the victim than justice for the accused, we tend to bias our interpretation of the evidence. Our desire to punish the criminal can completely dominate our search for the truth. The psychological literature indicates that this is precisely the case.
The public wants justice, and it perceives justice to have been delivered when someone has been convicted of a crime. An acquittal isn't a resolution at all. Either the guilty party was acquitted, or there's still a guilty person out there somewhere. Neither outcome is satisfactory. Given a choice of trusting the public jury or the actual trial jury, my vote is with the trial jury.
Anger makes for bad law. Passion is the driving force for mobs, not justice. It's right to feel anger for the death of Caylee Anthony, and it's right to want justice for her. It's wrong to want that anger to guide the law. Casey Anthony might be guilty, but it's entirely appropriate that the jury, to their dismay, didn't find her so.
Love and Lyte,