I’ll admit I was surprised when the jury in the Casey Anthony trial returned “not guilty” verdicts on all of the first 3 counts. I was also relieved because I am not a proponent of the death penalty. In my opinion, the disproportionate sentencing of prisoners to die, especially within the African-American and Latino-American communities, by the United States justice system has deeply swayed me in opposition to the death penalty. In fact, I believe that we should have a moratorium on the death penalty in this country for that reason.
When this trial first began, I felt secure in my mind that she was guilty of the unthinkable crime of murdering her daughter. As the trial progressed, I began to question myself. By the time the verdict was scheduled to be read at 2:15 pm yesterday, I had totally given up on judging the situation because the truth was, I didn’t know what to think. Did she prove herself, admittedly so by the defense, to be a methodical liar? Yes. Was it proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she murdered her daughter in a premeditated fashion? Not exactly. So the 12 jurors made their best judgment in light of the evidence; due process was followed; the judge confirmed the verdicts; and we are right back at square one, not really knowing what happened to Caylee. We all wanted justice for Caylee. It feels like we’ll have to settle for a little less than that.
What is it about these courtroom dramas that command our attention? I remember when the NBA finals were interrupted suddenly with breaking news about O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco being chased by police in 1994. I didn’t think anything in this world could have distracted me as a 17 year old kid from watching Patrick Ewing battle Hakeem Olajuwon for the world championship. It was the NBA’s version of “Clash of the Titans”- Ewing with his patent low-post fade-away jump-shot and Olajuwon with his paint-area soccer style footwork that provoked memories of Pelé. Yet I did, though initially involuntarily, turn my attention from one court to another. I remember hearing that verdict read as well. When O.J. was found innocent of murder, I was in the Student Union at the University of Dayton, and I watched how that controversial ruling totally polarized the African-American and Caucasian students on campus.
That trial had its memorable moments as did this one, most notably the frenzy that escalated into a fistfight over seating outside of the courtroom one morning. (I would have expected that to happen at a Lady Gaga or Beyoncé concert, or perhaps even a Yankees vs. Red Sox game?) Be that as it may, I will recall what will, hopefully, prove to be a more enduring memory from this trial; that of a young girl who brought a tribute to the scene of where Caylee Anthony’s body was heinously discarded. For me, it was that little girl’s heartfelt compassion for Caylee that reminds me of what really mattered in this trial, aside from any disappointment felt in light of the verdict.