Let’s Not Be Distracted by Casey Anthony

Some think she got away with murder, but the great unfairness of our criminal-justice system is what deserves our attention.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Let me say at the outset that the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, or the murder of any child, is a tragedy. Am I outraged at the verdict of not guilty of murder or manslaughter for Casey Anthony? No.

Was Casey involved in the death and/or cover-up of Caylee? In my opinion, she probably was. Innocent people don’t lie to investigators, and she was found guilty of four counts of giving false information. Contrary to what legal huckster Nancy Grace and others claim, the “devil” is not “dancing at Casey Anthony’s verdict.” In this case, the imperfect American system of justice worked.

What we need to remember is that our system of jurisprudence is not designed to determine empirically whether or not a person actually committed a crime. A jury verdict of not guilty does not mean innocent — as in free from moral wrong or without sin. “Not guilty” just means that the state (prosecution) was unable to meet the legal burden of proof.

The prosecution was never able to definitively determine how little Caylee died. Without the cause of death, the prosecution was unable to prove to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” who or what killed her. It’s just that simple. It was heavy lifting from the outset, and unfortunately, the weight of the circumstantial evidence did not carry the day.

Instead of all of this hand-wringing, second-guessing and Tuesday-morning quarterbacking, we need to shift our focus away from the distractions of what we do not know, and will probably never be able to prove, to what we do know. Comparisons to the O.J. verdict are a distraction and a waste of time. Statements that Casey would have been convicted if she had been an African American are not necessary (even if there’s sufficient data to support that position).

We need to focus our attention and direct our ire toward a system that allows thousands of innocent men and women to languish in American prisons for crimes they did not commit. We need to be outraged about the innocent victims of racial profiling, incompetent counsel, biased prosecutors and judges, and racist juries. We should call for improvements in the criminal-justice system so that the innocents like Michael Anthony Green go free instead of spending 27 years in a Texas prison for a rape and abduction that they did not commit.

Americans should be outraged about Lanell Dowling, the 26-year-old New York City man who spent seven months in jail because he “fit the description” of a mugger and armed robber. All charges were dropped when cellphone records and Facebook entries proved him to be innocent. Even though witnesses identified him, it should not have taken seven months for such accessible evidence to be presented to the court.