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article imageOp-Ed: The Casey Anthony verdict – a retrospective

article:309420:36::0
By Alexander Baron     Jul 22, 2011 in Crime
Orlando - Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her daughter in spite of overwhelming evidence of her guilt because the jurors didn’t understand what the State had to prove.
Now that the verdict is in, sentence has been passed, “Tot Mom” has walked free from gaol time served, and the public’s anger has abated somewhat, it is possible to look at the verdict objectively.
In the immediate aftermath of the highest profile televised trial in American history since the equally dubious acquittal of O.J. Simpson for a double murder, the jurors decided they did not want to be identified or to explain the reasons for their decisions. That silence was soon broken by Juror Number 3, Jennifer Ford, and later by the jury foreman and one of the alternate jurors.
The one nice thing that can be said about this verdict is that it was brave; the jurors appear to have realised – how could they not? – that to acquit Casey Anthony of all the major charges, not simply the murder charge but of everything except lying to the police, would have been unpopular in the extreme. They probably realised this would have led to them being pilloried by the media, or even receiving death threats, but they acquitted her anyway.
Allthough neither the integrity nor the conscientiousness of any of these individuals can or should be questioned, it is clear from the answers in their respective interviews that they did not really understand what was asked of them; this was especially true of Jennifer Ford, who said "...how did she die? If you're gonna charge someone with murder, don't you have to know they killed someone, or why they might have killed someone..." And when, where, how?
In this connection, the jury foreman – or foreperson as he was alluded to – said he didn’t know how the body got to where it was found. One of the major issues was the cause of death, which they did not know. This man was said to have taken four hundred pages of notes, but it would have been better if he had taken fewer notes and paid more attention to the judge’s instructions, the evidence, and the closing arguments of the State. Although lead defense attorney Jose Baez made a powerful closing speech, he didn’t have much to go on apart from accusing the police and their expert witnesses of being fools, and attacking the characters of both George Anthony and Roy Kronk, the latter of whose only crime had been to find Caylee’s body and to attempt repeatedly to draw it to the attention of the authorities.
Here is Jennifer Ford again: “...how did she die? If you're gonna charge someone with murder, don't you have to know they killed someone, or why they might have killed someone...”
The short answer to that is: No!
In this connection, let us look at another murder trial. At the same time Casey Marie Anthony was sitting with her defense team in an Orlando courtroom, Levi Bellfield was sitting in the dock at the Old Bailey in the City of London. Three years ago, Bellfield was convicted or murdering two young women by bashing them over their heads with a hammer. The murder weapon was never found, and no rational motive was ever adduced. It has been claimed Bellfield is a psychopath who has a pathological hatred of blondes, that he is a woman hater, that he is a sadist...It may simply be that he thought it would be fun to murder people and see if he could get away with it, reasoning that murdering strangers would be safer than murdering people he knew, and attacking women would be safer than attacking men.
At the end of the day, the Crown was not able to adduce a (to ordinary people) meaningful motive such as robbery or revenge, and it didn’t have to.
Following his conviction, and an extensive investigation by both Surrey Police and the Metropolitan Police – who had brought him to book the first time – he was charged with the murder of Amanda Jane Dowler. The thirteen year old had disappeared on March 21, 2002 “in the blink of an eye”. Although he was known to the police, Bellfield was not at this time “in the frame”; he was certainly not considered to be a danger either to women or young girls, although it is possible that he committed a double murder in 1996, and even a murder in June 1980, when he was twelve years old.
By the time of the Dowler trial, Bellfield was a convicted double murderer, a fact that because of his notoriety could not be hidden from the jury, and which would obviously have been used against him had he elected to testify. He did not, but apart from being the man most likely to, what evidence was there that he had murdered the girl?
There was no forensic evidence. None. Amanda’s body was found in woodland six months after she disappeared. As was Caylee Anthony’s. There was no evidence as to how she had died, no fractures, etc. Her skeletal remains had been gnawed by animals, as had Caylee’s. Jeffrey Samuels QC defended his odious client vigorously but without the bullishness and utter contempt for the witnesses displayed by Jose Baez, behaviour that would not be tolerated in a British courtroom. Even so, he came in for severe criticism for, among other things, suggesting it was possible that no crime had been committed. The victim’s body had clearly been stripped, no clothing was found, so the police and the coroner decided she had been murdered.
Bellfield was said to have killed her at his former home in Collingwood Place, but it was suspected for a long time that she had been lured or dragged into a car. Absolutely no trace of the dead girl was found at this apartment, which was not searched by the men in the white overalls until it had been re-let and redecorated years after the murder. All the same, evidence was presented that Bellfield had acted suspiciously on the night of the murder, and from this the jury was led to believe they might infer that he had been destroying forensic evidence. This is a valid inference. Just as a jury may convict on a murder charge without a (rational) motive, it may convict without evidence of the manner of death, and even, in rare cases, without a body. That being said, in the Casey Anthony case, the State presented clear evidence of a motive, and also clear evidence of first degree murder.
The motive was, as Jeff Ashton said in his powerful closing argument, that Casey had to choose between the life she had been leading and her child, and that inconceivable as that choice may appear to every mother in America, she chose the former.
Then there was the evidence of the duct tape; although the jury foreman in particular was skeptical of this, it was clear that it had been used, and again as Jeff Ashton said, there is no rational reason to put duct tape on the face of a dead child – which ruled out the accidental death explanation to which Jose Baez alluded in his sensational but totally vacuous opening speech – and no good reason to put duct tape on the face of a live one.
Along with all the other evidence, there was more than enough here to warrant a verdict of guilty of first degree murder, whether or not the jury felt willing or able to sentence her to death.
As Casey Anthony’s aunt Pamela Plesea said poetically: “we’ve watched way too much CSI, and we expect...something...to jump out of a bag and say ‘Hey, she did it’”.
If that were indeed the case, prisons the world over would be empty, because the standard of proof would be set impossibly high, not simply for murder, but for most crimes in which there was no signed confession, CCTV, or eyewitness evidence.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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