6/14/2011

Different Ways of Looking at the Casey Anthony Trial - Not Guilty Standard

Reading through all the comments left here over the past week regarding the Casey Anthony trial (and thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment, it's appreciated), I've been thinking about how different perspectives can be taken on what we are all watching unfold.

There's the viewpoint of the truthseeker: what really happened here? 

Everything gets pondered, and personal recollections and experiences are mined for information that will help explain how this crime could have happened, and why. To be honest, that's me. Maybe you, too. 

But that's not necessarily what anyone's role is there in the courtroom.

First, there's the perspective of the defense attorney. 

This focus is upon getting their client acquitted - and if not freed, then with the least amount of punishment possible.  That's the defense attorney's job.  To defend. 

Second, there's the prosecutor's focus. 

The state attorney is compiling evidence and presenting it to the jury and placing it in the record in order to meet the elements of the crimes contained within the charge (see earlier post on what the state has to prove, and with what Casey has been charged.)  Enough evidence has to be presented to meet the burden of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt.  Not all evidence will be placed before the jury (for example, I'm not hearing anything about how Casey was arrested under an overpass while she was changing cars and possibility trying to run away).  When they rest their case, they should set down thinking "we have given the jury everything they will need when they get those jury instructions, to tie law to facts and come back with the verdict we want."

Third, there's the judge.  

He's protecting the law as it is presented to him.  No objection made to a piece of evidence and he knows it should have been?  He must set there and let the attorney make the error.  Expert provided that he thinks isn't the best choice?  Not his call.  If the law and the precedent has been met, then he must follow state law.  Is the law being followed as the attorneys do their job?  Then the judge is doing his.

Fourth, the jury.  

They are to take what has been presented to them and deliberate with the instructions that have been given to them (hasn't happened yet) to decide whether or not the state has met the burden of proof for "guilty" on the charges they've been given.  They are not deciding innocence. 


No one in that courtroom is considering innocence - they are considering the standard of "not guilty." 

Here's why that is very important to all of us. 

The crux of this proceeding, as any criminal proceeding, is whether or not the government will be allowed to take a citizen and throw them in a cell, denying them freedom for a period of time.  In this case, the government is going one step further:  the State of Florida is asking that the citizen be killed by an executor for the crime that the state is alleging has been committed.

Freedom, life: it's one of the truly great things about our American system of justice that we fight so hard to protect these things.  Not every country does, and we read about that every day.

So, when we are all watching the Casey Anthony trial, I for one want that prosecution to be strong in its case and I want the defense to be stellar in its challenge.  It's not because of Casey Anthony, though it's her life on the line -- it's because I respect the system and what it means to all of us.

Now, as the state is preparing to rest, I'm waiting to see what the defense is going to pull out of its hat.  Mr. Baez and his co-counsel knew the evidence before it came in, so all this "drowned in the pool" and "body was moved" has to have some sort of basis they'll try to present.  Will this sway the perspective of "not guilty" here?

I don't know yet.  But "not guilty" is all that the defense has to meet -- and that's another way of saying, here's enough doubt to keep you from jumping the reasonableness hurdle.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Reba,

I enjoyed reading your posts, especially about the competence and integrity of Judge Belvin Perry. I too have been obsessed with this case and watch as much as I can.

Question: I read a quote from juror # 11: He says he has “formed an opinion of guilt, but could lay it aside.”

If that is the case why would any defense or a judge accept him as a member of the jury for death penalty trial or any trial. This is the antithesis of the jury selection process. As a prosecutor, even I would’ve move to exclude such a juror to save any future allegation of jury misconduct. Could this be a ground for an appeal? I have never heard such a claim from a juror.

Few Comments:
Like you, I am also surprise that Baez was given the lead, or even was on the team. Beside his opening statement, he has come across as an incompetent or not so bright lawyer during many cross examinations. I’ve been much more impressed with Mason, specially his motion to acquit, as futile as it may have been. I don’t think Baez could’ve pulled it out as well as Mason did.

Listening to this morning’s testimony, I’m compelled to think that prosecution may’ve shot themselves in the foot by categorically claiming that they know exactly what and how it happened. Mostly their claim that Caylee was duct taped (3 times) and then her body was stored in trunk of a car. Although, I do believe that the body was in the trunk, I am also doubtful about the duct tape. Also, why use duct tape when you are using chloroform in such a high quantity?

However, once they knew (way before the trial) that there was no DNA in the car or on the tape, as we learned today; wouldn’t they have been better off not betting so heavily on their theory, or making duct tape their star witness/evidence?

I think now it is hard for them to explain to the jury the lack of any DNA, for it is hard for a child not to leave a DNA on a duct tape that is suffocating her, just as it is hard for a decomposing body not to leave some residue on the carpet of the trunk.

Couldn’t prosecution just have claimed that we know Caylee was last seen in the custody of Casey. We also know Casey killed Caylee and at some point disposed her body like a trash, but we don’t know how (and they really don’t,) why and when Casey killed her, because she won’t tell us, and then show all the circumstantial evidence, including her bizarre behavior of 31 days.

I didn’t see the parents testimonies, was either of them asked by the prosecution regarding the molestation charges to rebuke defense’s opening statement? Did defense asked about it to bolster their claim of molestation?
Thanks,

I look forward to your thoughts,
Dorian Gray

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Dorian,

Great to hear that you are enjoying what I'm writing here - thanks!

And, I appreciate your agreement on the work that Judge Belvin Perry has been doing in this case. Lawyer to lawyer, bet we both wish there were more on the bench like him.

As for the quote from juror # 11, where he said he had “formed an opinion of guilt, but could lay it aside,” wow. Hadn't heard that and I do not get how this guy got on the jury either. Was there further interrogation of this person during voir dire that explained this away somehow?

I remain convinced that there has been a trial by media in this case and that some of the jurors have come to the jury box with an awareness of the case and a predisposition to guilt.

Whether that's going to be a fight on appeal, I don't know. Probably, with statements like that one.

Re your comments:

Yeah, hasn't some of Baez's stuff just been painful to watch? I agree with you on Mason, he appears on TV like a seasoned veteran. Betcha he does closing and he'll be lead in the penalty phase (if there is one).

Interesting thoughts on the prosecution's csae. I have assumed that the state felt they had to give a concrete story of "how it happened" and went the duct tape route b/c they didn't have enuf for the chloroform.

Which makes me wonder about 2 things that didn't come in: the syringe with chloroform remains found inside a Mountain Dew bottle near the reamains, and the childhood tradition of the neighborhood kids to bury their pets out there with heart stickers on them.

Maybe we're gonna see more stuff on rebuttal.

As for the parents' testimonies, George categorically denied all the allegations made in the defense’s opening statement. Don't recall what Baez did in his cross (George was called as the 1st witness for the state immediately after Baez's opening was done, to refute what had just been said.)

Thanks so much for writing, Mr. Gray,
Reba

A Voice of Sanity said...

"George categorically denied all the allegations made in the defense’s opening statement."

Seems reasonable. Even if he was guilty of this (and even if he wanted to admit it) it would do Casey no good. The prosecution would claim he was "lying to save her" and some prosecutors have even charged witnesses whose testimony they didn't like with perjury after the trial!