Unless you live under a rock, or your TV is broken you probably heard the news yesterday: Casey Anthony was found "not guilty" on all charges directly related to the death of her two year old daughter Calee in 2008, save only the four counts of providing false information to the police.
(Which, let's face it, is something that probably been done by every single human being ever accused of a crime since the beginning of human history.)
My boss actually had a news feed up on his computer, so we heard the verdict pretty much as it came out. Several of us were "following" the case, so naturally there was a lot of interest. (No, we don't work in a law office.) And I should say that I haven't been "following" the case, so much as I was bombarded by it. There were 16,442 people murdered in the United States in 2008, but I'll be damned if I can name a single other case off the top of my head. But hey: An attractive white woman, acting strangely I might add, a cute white kid, weird circumstances and answered questions? That's NEWS (I guess.)
I'm not trying to say that Calee doesn't deserve justice, nor even that I don't think Casey did it. (I DO, but more on that in a minute.) The thing is, those 16,442? Are based on CONVICTIONS. How many OTHER cases of dead people in 2008 went uncovered by the media? How many OTHER victims didn't get justice? How many OTHER people got away with it? That's the first thing that annoys me about these kinds of stories.
Another is NANCY FUCKING GRACE.
Oh my Holy Lord in Heaven, is there any other human being anywhere on this big and beautiful planet MORE ANNOYING and MORE GRATING that Nancy Grace?! Holy crap, I honestly think I'd rather have Ann Coulter on my jury! And I AGREE WITH HER! I don't even really have a problem with he JUDGEMENT in this case! I think she's basically got it right! I just can't stand listening to her!
Here's the thing... A few weeks back, CNN had a prominent defense attorney on air to discuss the case and he basically said, "Here's what the prosecution will try to say. Here's what the defense will counter with. And here are the issues that the jury will need to sort out." There may have been something in there about the states burden of proof, but it was basically a balanced, objective summary of the case, for the benefit of those who've managed to otherwise avoid or miss the massive coverage of it. Then they turned to Nancy. Her response, and I'm paraphrasing here, was something like this:
"THAT'S A LOAD OF BULLSHIT, MARK. THE BITCH IS GULITY AS HITLER, AND DESERVES TO DIE - AT LEAST TWICE - IN THE MOST INHUMANE WAY POSSIBLE. ACTING LIKE SHE DID PROVES BEYOND ANY DOUBT THAT SHE'S A LOUSY DAUGHTER, A LOUSY MOTHER, AND AN INHUMAN, MURDERING PUDDLE OF POND SCUM!"
...Which is what I guess passes for objective reporting on what Conservatives refer to as the "Communist News Network." (Or, as I call it, "Chicken Noodle News.")
And understandably, there were some pretty strong opinions being expressed around the office when the verdicts were announced. A betting pool was immediately drawn up on Casey Anthony's life expectancy, and one of the more prominent opinions was: "THIS is what's wrong with our system."
Now… These were conservative guys. Not morons, professional people I respect, but conservatives. And what they were feeling was that (1) she was guilty and (2) she was let off. So (3) “the system” doesn’t work. We also got into a discussion about the 4th Amendment and how it’s bullshit that evidence obtained “illegally” was automatically inadmissible, particularly when it revealed the TRUTH of the matter. Now, I LOVE taking on Conservatives in these kinds of discussion, because I can do so from [their own] libertarian point of view, without having to wear my politics on my sleeve.
I simply asked them: How else can you protect our rights? You wouldn’t even know the person was guilty until AFTER you violated their rights! So what good is any protection of privacy and private property if there are no repercussions to the state for violating it? What else would you do? Punish the Cops?! Throw them in jail or sue them? Sure. And good luck getting any more cops to search shit from that point forward. It wouldn't work. So, flawed as it is, this the best you can do and not live in a police state.
And the whole reason we were even talking about that was that I said that I wanted to get an idea of the disparity between the case that was presented to the jury and the story that was told to us by the media. Sure: We’re all torqued up about this woman’s guilt because that’s how the media wants us. (And to anyone who thinks they always get it right, I have three words for: Jean Benoit Ramsey. And you and Nancy Grace owe her later-mother an engraved apology! Big time!) And who knows…? Maybe they even had some inkling as to where this case was heading. So by presenting one side, they might be able to milk this story even longer. Who knows? In any case, this case, for better or worse, is clear evidence trails are NOT tried in the media or the court of public opinion, and I for one think that’s a VERY GOOD THING.
Also… As you may know I like to think of things a little bit differently. I kind of have a “freakanomics” way of looking at the world, only with a progressive / liberal bias. And the one other Liberal in the office asked an interesting question to that end:
Do you think she might have been convicted, is she was being tried in a state that did NOT have the death penalty?
And honestly? I DON’T KNOW. It’s hypothetical, and there’s no way to prove it one way of the other, unless one of the jurors were to come right out and admit it, but it’s certainly one of the more effective, if somewhat more cynical, arguments against the death penalty that I’ve heard; A point that I never really considered: Could abolishing it end up in MORE convictions?
And just FYI: I SUPPORT the Death Penalty. Not blindly, of course, and not in all cases that it's been applied, and not the system that currently administers it. But the practice, in general? I’m basically OK with. And before anyone gives me the Liberal arguments against it, don’t bother. I’ve heard them before and I don’t care. But don't worry... I don’t get much love from Conservatives on the issue either. Because I don’t buy their bullshit about it anymore that I care about the far more fact-based arguments being presented by Liberals. I support it, yes, but I’ll happily admit: It’s a vice. It’s a vice that satisfies the sin of wrath, nothing more. Someone is dead, I’m angry about it, so someone must die. As long as it’s the RIGHT person? I’m basically OK with it.
Which brings me back to the case at hand: Did she do it?
Well, she certainly ain't winning any ‘mother of the year’ awards. She seems guilty of gross parental negligence at a minimum. (Something she wasn’t even CHARGED with!) If my kid were missing for three minutes I’m panicking. And after thirty? I’m calling the cops. But thirty DAYS?! Holy crap! So her first story was bullshit. I get that. So she’s also a liar. But there is an established burden of proof that the state MUST meet to convict someone of a Capital Crime. And in the absence of being able to establish either the CAUSE or the TIME of death? That burden gets very difficult to meet.
And so, unfortunately, since real life is not like CSI on TV, they had no case; just the least sympathetic defendant who didn’t yell “Allah Akbar!” at the time of the crime.
And here’s where my freakanomic thinking comes in… If you’re a Conservative, arguing with a Liberal about the Death Penalty, or tougher prison sentences, or anything else that falls under the “cruel and unusual punishment” venue, isn’t the fact that Casey Anthony got off PROOF that the system DOES in fact work? Doesn't it PROVE that we can’t possibly falsely convicting that many people if even a terrible, terrible person like her got off? Should this silence all of the Liberal critics of our legal system? If the Right wasn’t so blinded by their own anger, they might realize that this is actually a VICTORY for them! Kind of like how O.J. Simpson getting off (the first time) is proof that the system isn’t racist!
Even though... People are shown by DNA evidence to have been falsely convicted ALL THE TIME.
And Blacks are more likely to be executed, and receive tougher sentences than whites convicted of the exact same crimes.
But… I guess they’d still rather execute a couple more people than to be able to argue that the system works. See? I TOLD you it was a VICE!
BTW… If you ever have someone say something to the effect of “I’d rather send an innocent man to prison than risk letting a guilty man go free,” PLEASE hit them in the head with a brick that has the word “MORON!” engraved in it. And once they come to, ask them: If an INNOCENT MAN (AKA: NOT THE GUY WHO COMMITTED THE CRIME) went to prison, what happened to the guy who ACTUALLY COMMITTED THE CRIME?! (Um… I’m pretty sure he went free, FUCKWAD!) See… The guilty guy goes free either way! But these jack-holes would rather compound this legal cluster-fuck by sending THE WRONG GUY to prison on top of it! That’s how they want the system to “werk,” I guess.
The real problem here is how the media chooses to cover these things, and how they choose the cases they want to cover at all. And this is compounded by the public's belief that they can draw any conclusions about our legal system from the media: An entity that focuses on one case at a time out of TEN THOUSAND (or more.) (16,442 in 2008!) By definition ANY case being given this kind of coverage the media can onlybe the exception: It's 1 out of 10,000+ after all! You don't learn about significant trend with a NON-RANDOM sample size that small.
One last thing… There was a couple of great articles in Crack about bullshit the media thinks is news, and how the media makes bullshit look like fact. Worth a read. Oh, and here’s some GOOD NEWS that nobody’s talking about! (That last one has a little bit of conservative bias to it, at least the way I see it, but still: Good news is good news!)