I didn't follow the Casey Anthony case when it first hit the papers a few years ago because it involved the death of a child and that's not the kind of stuff I like to spend my time reading. But now Casey is back in the news, on trial for the murder of her daughter Caylee Anthony. I've been following the story more closely this time and I have to say, I'm appalled and really, really sad.
But my sadness lies not so much with Casey and the horrific crime she allegedly committed or the allegations of sexual abuse and incest. My disappointment lies with those who have already decided Casey is guilty and should go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Hee haw! Get out the tar and feathers, grab the rope, find the nearest tree, start collecting stones, set up the stake, and start the fire. Let's all meet at the jail house at high noon and drag her scrawny ass outta thar. She's guilty and we knows it. We knows it! The newspapers done told us so! The TV reporters -- they told us so! And those TV reporters don't lie. That Nancy Grace, she told us too! And she's a real smart one, that Nancy Grace. Yup, Cassy, Cathy, Carrie, whatever her name is. She did it. Let's git her.
Settle down, folks.
This isn't really about whether Casey Anthony is guilty or not guilty. (There is a difference between being not guilty and being innocent, but we'll get to that later.) This is about America. This is about the Constitution. This is about our legal system.
The trial just started. None of us is in the courtroom. We haven't seen the evidence. The evidence is presented in the courtroom by lawyers, not in the papers by journalists (or hacks or annoying TV personalities trying to get ratings). Every day the jurors will see evidence that even the most avid case followers didn't know existed, and they'll hear facts that were never made public before. And in a high-profile trial like this, we, on the outside, will be reading about new bombshells every day -- from both the defense and the prosecution.
In addition to the facts of the case and the evidence presented, there's another little ol' thing that comes into play in the courtroom. It's called the Constitution. That crusty, old, yellowing piece of paper affords each and every one of us a bunch of rights. Even when we get accused of committing a crime. Even when we get accused of committing the most horrific crime imaginable and the whole world knows for sure we're guilty because Bill O'Reilly and Mary Hart said so. (Of course that's when you need those rights the most because that's exactly when that smart, newspaper-reading crowd, so very sure of itself, will hang an innocent you from the closest tree it can find. Oops!)
So about those rights: We have the right to a fair trial -- not a "we know you're totally guilty, but *sigh* we have to go through this silly little charade so we can pretend like constitutional rights mean something because we're so open-minded like that" trial. And we have the right not to be beaten by the police until we confess to a crime (cry uncle!). We also have the right not to have our houses searched without a warrant. Frivolous stuff like that, plus a whole lot more. (What were those Founding Fathers thinking? I mean, we can all tell when someone is guilty just by looking at them.)
The way our legal system works, if those rights get violated, sometimes tainted or illegally obtained evidence doesn't get in. And during the course of the trial, the judge makes sure everyone abides by the Constitution (because for some reason she thinks it's important and because, well, someone has to). So on occasion, someone who actually committed a crime gets off. That person is found "not guilty" but not "innocent." That's how big a deal the Constitution is. (Maybe we should just toss that onto the burning stake too?)
People accused of crimes, like murder, also get to defend themselves and present evidence that they didn't do it. They are permitted to show that they are really not guilty, as in innocent. Or sometimes they say, "Yes, I did it, but here's why." And sometimes that "here's why" part, that's a BIG deal. Like they might be crazy. Cuckoo. Certifiable. Or they might be acting in self-defense. They had to kill someone so that they could keep living. Or maybe they were abused or raped every day of their entire life and they finally stood up for themselves. Sometimes we give people a break because if we were in their shoes, we might have done the exact same thing. Because we are human. Anyway, it's not really for the accused to prove she didn't do it. It's for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt* that she did (*sometimes other standards are used depending on the crime and the jurisdiction).
So unless you're Casey Anthony or Caylee Anthony -- or maybe a few other people -- you have no idea what actually happened. Unless you're one of the lawyers or cops, you have no idea what all the evidence is. And unless you're psychic, you have no idea how this case is going to turn out. Hell, we all thought OJ Simpson was going straight to jail. That sucka was guilty -- we know it! -- and look what happened there.
I certainly don't know the outcome of Casey Anthony's trial (but I do know she deserves one) and I have no idea if she is guilty or not. But here's what I hope.
I hope the jurors are good Americans who don't have their minds already made up, and who will listen to the facts and look at the evidence that is presented to them every day. I hope they know that the newspaper articles they may have already read don't tell the whole story. I hope they respect the law and that little "formality" known as the Constitution. I hope they consider the evidence in the case as they would if any one of us was on trial for something we did -- or didn't do.
Those ladies and gentlemen of the jury have a daunting task, but I trust that they'll do a good job. After all, they actually showed up for jury duty. That's probably the first sign that these aren't people who mock our Constitution, bow down before boob tube blowhards, and get swept up in a dangerous mob mentality. They take being American citizens seriously.
The case is in their hands. Let's wait and see what they, our fellow citizens, do. And let's stop listening to the noise outside the courtroom.