The Aftermath of the Casey Anthony Verdict – and its Impact on Our Legal System
Although Casey Anthony was released from jail on Sunday morning to return to the world at large, the public uproar over the verdict in her case has yet to die down. Her acquittal still has segments of America in an uproar. The public backlash directed at her is something not seen since the acquittal of O.J. Simpson. According to her lawyers, she has received numerous death threats since the jury returned its verdict on July 5, 2011. Groups of people waited outside the Orlando jailhouse early Sunday morning to protest her release, bearing signs threatening her safety. But Casey Anthony isn’t the only person being threatened in connection with this case. According to various media reports, the jurors who acquitted her are also feeling the brunt of America’s backlash against the verdict.
As Americans, we have every reason to be proud of the manner in which people accused of crimes are brought to justice and tried in this country. Americans have constitutionally protected rights – such as a trial by one’s peers and the right against self incrimination – that other countries do not afford their citizens. And the most important part of a jury trial is – THE JURY. A jury is a group of hard working citizens who take time away from their busy lives to honor their civic duty. They report to jury duty and swear an oath to fairly and impartially hear the evidence presented to them before they reach their verdict. It may not be a perfect system, but there is no other system that we as American attorneys would endorse. Sometimes juries get it right and sometimes juries get it wrong, but at the end of the day someone like Casey Anthony gets their day in court and has their case heard by a jury of their peers. It is the purest execution of justice that can be afforded to someone.
The thought that jurors who sat on Casey Anthony’s jury for over six weeks are getting death threats is disturbing. One must remember that jurors reach their verdict based on the evidence presented to them at trial – NOT evidence or speculation that is presented through the media or other sources, and not based on the horror of the allegations. The burden of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” ALWAYS remains with the prosecutor and never shifts to the defendant. The prosecution’s case against Casey Anthony, on their own admission, was built on circumstantial evidence. It relied on scientific theories that had never once before been admitted in a criminal trial in the United States. Ultimately, the prosecutors could not answer the biggest question out there: how exactly did little Caylee die? All these factors led to the “acquittal heard ‘round the world.” But in no way was what most legal experts consider a shocking verdict the fault of the jury as some would have you believe.
When someone is accused of a crime – misdemeanor or felony – they have a right to have their day in court and a right to a trial by jury if they so choose. Whether you are Casey Anthony or John Doe from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau or Suffolk, you have a right to have a jury of your peers hear your case. If you were accused, you would want a jury to treat you fairly and to decide your fate based on the evidence – not on the allegations and not based on concerns about what the public might say. What happens if we allow jurors to be threatened after rendering unpopular verdicts? Future jurors would be afraid to acquit in any high-publicity cases or in cases with scary or terrible allegations. Being accused of a serious and horrific offense would mean a certain conviction at trial – regardless of the strength of the evidence. Innocent people would be convicted based upon jurors’ fears of reprisal from angry mobs. Our system of justice would break down.
Whether or not we agree with the Casey Anthony verdict, the jury has spoken. Threatening the jurors is a misguided folly that impairs the integrity of our system of justice. We shouldn’t tolerate it.