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My views on a verdict heard around the world...

Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011, at 5:15 PM

"Not guilty" ...the words spoken by a court clerk Tuesday that shocked a nation. I watched in my own state of shock while this verdict was handed over in the Casey Anthony trial. Not guilty? Could they be serious? Were the jurors watching the same trial as the rest of the nation? Then I started to think....maybe they weren't.

It all boils down to sensationalism.

Sensationalism is a bias used in media by taking a news story and creating excess hype over it with the primary goal of increasing viewer numbers. The Casey Anthony trial is the perfect example of sensationalism. Here was a homicide trial in the state of Florida that was plastered all over the news -- you couldn't turn on CNN or go online without seeing some mention of the trial. But, what made this trial so different from any other countless homicides that happen every other day in our country? What made it of national importance? I believe it was just so shocking to people to know that this mother was capable of allegedly killing her 2-year-old daughter. She is an attractive young woman who came from a seemingly normal family, and yet something truly horrific happened to this little girl and Americans demanded answers. It's like a snowball effect: The story started small and grew bigger as more people tuned in and wanted to hear or read about this tragedy.

Evidence was collected to bring a trial against Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter. Most of the evidence seemed pretty strong, yet it was circumstantial -- meaning that it didn't directly link Casey to the death of her daughter, but with proper reasoning it could potentially tie her to it. Did you know that even DNA evidence found at the scene of a crime that links a defendant to the murder is still circumstantial evidence? This is also true with fingerprints and blood analysis. They can strongly influence a guilty conclusion, but unless a person literally witnessed them at the time of the crime, it is still circumstantial evidence. While having an expert speak at the trial to corroborate the findings helps the evidence appear more concrete, it is still not considered direct evidence.

Even so, history has shown that people can be convicted on circumstantial evidence alone. A good example of this would be the Scott Peterson trial. Peterson was arrested in 2002 and charged with murdering his wife and unborn child. All the evidence presented in that trial was purely circumstantial, and yet in 2005 Peterson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Most of the evidence used against Timothy McVeigh was circumstantial as well. So, we KNOW that people ARE and CAN be convicted solely on this kind of evidence. Why didn't it play out that way this time in this particular murder trial? Only the jurors know the answer.

The prosecution in any trial has the burden of proof. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person being accused is guilty. This is difficult to do when the evidence is circumstantial. Not only that, but the prosecution had no proof as to "how" Caylee Anthony died. All that was known for sure was that she had duct tape across her mouth -- something that would only seem logical in a homicide. But, the fact of the matter remained -- nobody SAW Casey put duct tape on her daughter's mouth. Nobody saw her put a body in her trunk. Nobody saw her lay a child's body in a wooded area -- nobody. We do know that she didn't report her daughter missing for 31 days, which to any sensible person seems outrageous and highly suspicious. But is it enough to convict a person of murder and sentence to death? I, personally, have a hard time with all of this. I strongly believe that Casey has knowledge of what happened to Caylee, whatever that means. And I believe there should be some justice for that, but I can tell you right now -- I would NEVER have wanted to be a juror in this trial. If you stop and think about it, how difficult would that be? A couple of the jurors have come forward finally and spoke to the media. It seemed a general consensus among most of them that they didn't believe Casey was innocent and that they wished they could've came back with a "guilty" verdict -- the prosecution just didn't present enough hard, direct evidence to do so. Put yourself in that position for a second. You feel in your gut that a person is guilty, but you know that you can't sentence them to a guilty punishment with a good conscience when there is still an iota of doubt. The one thing that bothers me the most about the trial is there was no justice for Caylee. Even if the defense's claim were true and it had been an accidental drowning that Casey covered up out of fear, something should be done. Who disposes of their child's body in that manner out of fear? But, nothing can be done now. She was acquitted. To try her again for the same crime would be double jeopardy.

The term "not guilty" is interesting in the fact that the defendant isn't declared "innocent." Like I mentioned earlier, I do not believe Casey is innocent, but I would never want to be the one put in charge of deciding her fate. That has to weigh heavy on a person and I honestly don't know how they could do it without having some lasting effects on their psyche.

When I first heard about the not guilty verdict, I was enraged like most people. I still am pretty torn over it. I don't agree with the verdict, but I agree with the reasoning that was behind it. Until we are put in that situation, to decide a persons fate and place a judgement upon them, we will never fully understand or accept this outcome. It almost makes you angry that you even knew about the trial. Had I never known about this, if the media hadn't drawn me into this trial, I wouldn't have to be so emotionally tied to this verdict. I could go on living each day with no knowledge that something like this even happened. Being the most empathetic person in the world (I cry more times than I care to admit while just watching the endangered pet commercials on t.v.) I could have gone without knowing this ever occurred. But, what purpose would that serve? To ignore something or not know it happened doesn't make it any less real. Just because I wasn't in Japan when the earthquake happened doesn't mean it didn't occur. It was very real for lots of people. So is this. It doesn't affect my life "directly", but it does "circumstantially." Just knowing of this trial has changed my outlook on things. Not greatly...but, circumstantially. I will not instantly believe someone to be a inherently good person based solely on outward appearance. I will question people and their motives more and I have become increasingly more protective of my nieces and nephews.

Like the American author Philip Wylie once said, "Ignorance is not bliss -- it is oblivion." To keep ourselves in the dark and not learn from or acknowledge the things that occur around us, no matter how horrific, doesn't serve to protect us -- it leaves us oblivious and nothing can grow from oblivion.

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That there Casey Anthony is like a dog in heat, she needs to be put down.

-- Posted by LakeMinnetonkaMuskrat on Fri, Jul 8, 2011, at 4:06 PM

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Sarah C. Haney
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