Thursday, July 07, 2011

Casey Anthony is Not OJ Simpson

Several commentators (click here and here) have explained why the jury's verdict on Tuesday acquitting Casey Anthony of murdering her daughter was justified. In brief, the legal standard for a criminal conviction is that the jury must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of which she is accused. Casey Anthony's jury of her peers was ultimately not so convinced.

To elaborate: the lack of concrete forensic evidence tying Casey Anthony's DNA to her daughter's remains and the absence of a cause of death determination created enough reasonable doubt to overcome the circumstantial evidence introduced by the prosecutors in support of the state's allegations. Most notably, the prosecution offered expert testimony that a bad smell in Casey's car was chemically linked to Casey's decomposing body. (smelly car = guilty of murder? That's a tough connection to make.) As one juror noted, Casey Anthony might not be innocent of her daughter's murder, but there was not enough evidence to convict her.

While both cases were overwhelmed by media coverage, captured the nation's consciousness, and resulted in acquittals despite public opinion to the contrary, OJ Simpson's acquittal in the murder of his wife was more likely achieved by a combination of a superb and highly paid defense team and prosecutorial mistakes ( Exhibit #1: "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit"). Casey Anthony's acquittal on the other hand was the inevitable and justified result of insufficient evidence, despite the prosecution's best efforts and a decidedly mediocre defense attorney. (Jose Baez was refused admission to the Florida Bar for eight years because he owed child support payments, was representing Casey Anthony on a pro bono basis and was only practicing law for three years when he took on the case).

So, while justice may not have been served for Caylee since the true circumstances of her death may never be known, in my opinion, our justice system worked for Casey Anthony, even if the outcome reached was contrary to public opinion.


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