If you are unhappy about the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, you are obviously not alone. TV personality (I use this word kindly) Nancy Grace and probably millions of others are angry that Anthony was found “not guilty” of the most serious charges involving the death of her daughter Caylee. While Grace and all the rest are entitled to their opinions (and I too feel that the woman was guilty), the idea of “injustice” that seems to permeate the media in regards to this case seems out of hand.
What we have here is a public that is unhappy with the system: in this case a trial by jury. Part of our inalienable rights is trial with a jury of our peers, and in this case that means Florida residents. As with the O.J. Simpson case, the jury found a person that the public and media found guilty from the start not guilty. How dare they?
I believe we cannot like the system only when it works in our favor – the Scott Peterson trial for instance. The truth is that no one knows what is going on in the minds of jurors during a trial. Something as insidious as “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit” may just sway them, and celebrity can play a part as well – just don’t tell that to Phil Spector.
If the public is unhappy with a jury system that could explain why “terrorist combatants” are pushed into military tribunals. Can you imagine a 9-11 conspirator standing trial in New York City and being acquitted by a jury? Well, I am sure everyone in the government realizes what that would do and the pandemonium that would ensue in the streets of New York.
I don’t think we want to reach a point in this country when trial by jury is dissolved because of unpopular verdicts. Yes, we can all moan about Casey Anthony going free, but that is always a possibility and our system allows that. O.J. Simpson now rots in jail (on an unrelated charge), but that is also how the system works. Maybe justice takes time and maybe the system is not perfect, but as far as I know there are no Jury 101 classes in schools, and perhaps that would endanger the system further depending on the intent of instructors and the curriculum.
My fear is we could reach a point where there are no more juries, where tribunals or judges would rule on their own, where maybe even a trial itself was eliminated and the “swift justice” of the past becomes an angry lynch mob dragging people off for their appointments with a tree limb (think Atticus Finch standing in the way of the mob in To Kill a Mockingbird).
So, we may feel the Casey Anthony verdict was wrong, but that doesn’t mean the system is. Trial by jury still is an important freedom in this country, and we should cherish it because many other places wish they had it in place. Let’s hope we always have the right to a jury of our peers because even if it is a flawed system it is better than having the alternative.