I did a WFMY News2 interview on focus groups and Casey Anthony, just hours before the jury returned its Not Guilty verdicts, much to the dismay of many.
I can now share with you that when I met with the reporter that day, she asked me what I thought the outcome of the trial would be. I told her that from an emotional, subjective viewpoint, I thought Casey was guilty of something, but from an objective assessment, the State had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty of anything other than being an idiot.
I also said the prosecution had made a strategic mistake in asking for the death penatly and trying her on a first degeree murder charge when there was simply no way they could ever establish premeditation.
There’s an old saying that often comes true in a trial: Pigs get fed, Hogs get slaughtered.
In short, when you ask the jury for way more than you should, it will probably come back to haunt you.
There was simply never any proof of the cause of death; without any scientific evidence to connect Casey, how could a jury ever know, beyond a reasonable doubt, what happened or how it happened? The prosecution asked for way more than they could have ever established and the jury really had no choice but to reach this verdict.
The state—and the media—could never prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Casey actually murdered her child; all they could do was create suspicion and conjecture. That should never be enough.
No one should be tried and convicted by the press. There was a famous case years ago involving Dr. Sam Shepherd, who was accused of killing his wife. In fact, his case became the basis for the TV series and subsequent movie, "The Fugitive." The US Supreme Court held that he had been denied a fair trial because of the media circus surrounding his case. Fundamentally,the Court said it is vital to our rule of law that the accused be judged in the courtroom under the rules of evidence rather than having guilt determined by external forces.
And that’s where the Presumption of Innocence protects Casey and anyone else accused of a crime in this country. We established long ago in the United States that there is a constitutional right to be presumed innocent. Look around at other countries that don’t believe at that principle—is that really where you would want to live?
This jury followed the Constitution and the law. I am convinced the appellate courts would have overturned a conviction based on the lack of evidence presented, even if the jury had convicted her.
While you and I would almost certainly agree that Casey was morally bankrupt in her actions. the reality is the legal system worked well. Both the prosecution and defense had a fair opportunity to present the evidence, in the presence of an impartial judge; a jury of her peers then carefully considered that evidence and found the proof lacking.
Remember the line from the movie Training Day where Denzel Washingtonis is the bad cop? Denzel tells his young partner who is gong to turn him in, "It ain’t what you know, it’s what you can prove."
In America, that still holds true.