I was on break, stealing wifi from the hotel across the street from the store where I work when the 30-minute warning for the Casey Anthony verdict was issued. I walked back in and told my coworkers that the news was coming, and that there was no way that Casey was going to jail.
Nobody believed me, which was hardly surprising, and part of the reason why I bothered to tell them. After the verdict came back I spent a good portion of the rest of my shift explaining the American criminal justice system to the two coworkers of mine who had an excuse, not originally being from this country.
Later I took one of them bowling for the first time, cultural ambassador am I. But I digress.
What made me absolutely certain of the not guilty verdict was the short deliberations-- establishing reasonable doubt doesn't take nearly as long as exhausting reasonable doubt. But the only reason I wasn't certain beforehand was because I'm not brimming with trust in my fellow Americans to pull their end of the rope where phrases such as "beyond all reasonable doubt" are concerned, let alone"air of reality"
If you watched the news coverage of the Casey Anthony trial, you were bombarded with how many fun things Casey did while her daughter was supposedly missing and what an incalculably cold, evil woman Casey must be. Also, we might kill this one, who's excited? If you watched the trial, you saw the prosecution lean heavily on the above while utterly failing to make its case. Their first boneheaded mistake was not charging involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included for a case where the actual event of the victim's death was never established. And it didn't get a whole hell of a lot better from there.
It was kind of surreal watching the esteemed members of the legal commentariat assembled on MSNBC's live team do Orwellian backflips to explain how the short closing argument by the prosecution had to be some trap so that it fit their Official Casey Anthony Narrative, designed seemingly to entice their viewers into believing that this was a done deal and if they tuned in next week they'd get to see live footage of a young woman discovering that the possibilities for the rest of her life have been narrowed down to the long one or the short one. They were too busy speculating how Jose Baez would react if it were a movie to notice that he'd knocked his closing out of the park without the cheap theatrics they described. He simply explained in clear and uncertain terms that function of the jury wasn't there to solve a mystery. If after the prosecution rests there remains a mystery as to the facts of the case, then the function of the jury is to acquit, no matter what they think might have happened.
News is, for most proprietors of it, a revenue-driven enterprise. And you can't help but notice that the outrage that has resulted at least in part from the media's role in shaping expectations is a neat and tidy consolation prize for not being able to use any of the catchy slogans they'd come up with for the death penalty hearings. Here's what you won't hear from many of them: Even if the worst is true about Casey Anthony, it's unequivocally a good thing that she was found not guilty, as any standard of proof that would have lead to her conviction would put many, many innocent people behind bars. Everyone crowing about how justice wasn't served can fuck right the hell off. Justice was never on the damn menu.
Caylee Anthony is dead. Nothing can change that. It may confound the chest-thumping law and order set for me to say this, but the purpose of our criminal justice system isn't to punish criminals. It's to remove dangerous people from the public and place a deterrent on criminal behavior. Punishment isn't an end unto itself; It's a method of deterrence. Nancy Grace can talk all she wants about how the devil is dancing. I'll take her word for it as a subject matter expert-- when Nancy Grace dances with the devil, she leads.
One person who you can trust to get it right when countless others get it wrong is Chris Hayes, who was music to my ears on The Last Word last night when he spoke about the greater implications of the verdict and the public and the media's reaction to it.
Not for nothing, but I'd absolutely watch that anti-Nancy Grace show.