Does the Casey Anthony Trial Matter?

For those of you who were very fortunate enough to miss it, there was a trial of a young mother in Florida named Casey Anthony, accused of the murder of her two-year-old daughter three years ago. It was a lurid affair, with the defendant accusing her father and brother, in open court, of sexually abusing her, which somehow was the explanation why it took a month before little Caylee was reported missing.

Considering the fact that I was blissfully oblivious to the case before the trial, I know a great deal (more than I want to) about it. Literally, fights broke out in the lines among the spectators wanting to see the event.

Then lo and behold, Casey Anthony was found “not guilty” of the most serious accusations against her. And people, including virtually all of the media, were SHOCKED by the outcome. ABC News did a prime time hour on the SHOCKING results. #SHOCKING was the hashtag on Twitter the day of the verdict. One of the morning news shows (The Today show on NBC?) had mothers on explaning why Caylee Anthony’s failure to receive “justice” was an affront to motherhood, or something; I saw the tease and changed the channel. And people outside the courthouse looked ready to lynch Casey Anthony. Her parents have received death threats, not just from the social media.

So does any of this matter, other than to the little victim? I contend it does, for these reasons:

One needs to ask how do some legal cases become national news, while others do not. There have been other incidents of children murdered, killed by their parent, even by their mother, which didn’t warrant more than a mention on the AP wire, if that. What role did the victim’s age, race, gender play in this story, and other situations of abductions and murders, becoming international news?

What part did the news media play in creating the expectation that this woman would be found guilty? This was a death-penalty case, and without getting too complicated, there were two paths, it was heavily reported, by which she could be executed. Surely, this left the impression that the jury would SURELY choose one or the other.

Did the news organizations pay for access to the participants? ABC News, for one, had family photos and videos, “licensed” for use. And guess what? The family members were available for “exclusive interviews”, which reeks of checkbook journalism. They also used HLN’s Nancy Grace as an “analyst” on Good Morning America, a person so buffoonish that she had been caricatured on the former ABC drama Boston Legal years ago.

Finally, the jury felt there was “reasonable doubt”, that she was “not guilty”, not necessarily “innocent”. Do Americans not understand the difference in US jurisprudence? Didn’t they watch Law & Order or LA Law or Perry Mason or countless other law fictions? (Although MAD magazine had a humorous take on this.) I believe there is something called “guilt not proven” in other countries. Maybe we need something like that here.

What are your thoughts?

0 thoughts on “Does the Casey Anthony Trial Matter?”

  1. Just another instance where a serious matter is used as fodder for Infotainment. Modern media’s intent is to INFLAME, not to inform. There is no justice to be found when a case is tried by talking heads.


  2. I think the only reason that this story became so big is that the victim was a cute little white girl. I’d struggle to think of a single case of a similarly highly sensationalised case in which the victim isn’t white. Moreover, this sort of thing taps into people’s needs to feel morally superior (“the mother was such a tramp!” people said, using a cruder word than “tramp”). This case gave people a “reason” to feel superior and self-righteous.

    In NZ, we have the opposite, also tinged with racism: We only hear about the murders of Polynesian kids, never white ones, as if it never, ever happens.

    But these things are also all about lurid entertainment, sort of “crime porn”, you could say. I think the media definitely acted as if a guilty verdict was inevitable—and I say that only seeing brief reports on ABC (US) News or CBS News (our own media didn’t report on it until the very end).

    I also agree that people don’t understand that to convict someone of murder—especially capital murder—the prosecution has to prove that something DID happen, not that it could have happened. The prosecution simply couldn’t do that (in fairness, partly because there wasn’t enough physical evidence left by the time they found the body). If prosecutors hadn’t sought the death penalty, there may have been a different verdict.

    I was appalled to hear that jurors were receiving death threats—for doing their jobs, for deliberating in accordance with law and the whole process of jurisprudence, not on raw emotion, lynch mob mentality or newsmedia sensationalism. All criminal would be lucky to have such a good and competent jury.

    However, I also agree: “Not guilty” is not the same as “innocent”. In this case, as in so many other cases we never hear about, prosecutors simply couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of murder and should then be put to death for it. The system worked the way it was supposed to, and I think that, ultimately, is the most important thing about this whole circus.


  3. I completely agree with your assessment. To it I would add my own dismay that literally thousands of children die **every single day** of malnutrition. This rather amounts to a passive-aggressive form of child killing that is largely overlooked by mainstream news media. The world economic systems commit the crime; we all participate.


  4. Oh where to start with this travesty. From the cop who didn’t want to get wet by investigating the first report when called, to the prosecutor’s choice of charges, to the jury’s expectations. Honestly, I think we are all watching way too much CSI on TV; having set our forensic discoveries impossibly high. Was there enough circumstantial evidence to support a death penalty. Probably not, but I believe there was more than enough to convict. Someone in that house knows the truth. Caylee certainly didn’t put herself in that bag and in the water.


  5. I quit watching national news channels for weeks. CNN, which had been my fave for as long as I’d had cable, had turned into the “Casey Anthony Network”, and every time I tuned in to see what was going on in the world, they were re-hashing the trial. Yes, I realize a horrible injustice was done to a young girl, but where is the outcry for all the other children who are abused, abducted and/or murdered? Is it that the victims and/or potential perpetrators in these other cases are less photogenic?

    I really feel for the jury, who had a particularly harrowing decision to make in the face of all that publicity. Jurors don’t get any choice in what cases they are assigned. They have to make their decision based upon what is presented in court, not by the media. I think the option of a “guilt not proven” verdict would be a good idea in the U.S.

    Thanks for bringing this up. It has been on my mind for awhile.


  6. The problem with following domestic violence court cases is that unless you are right there involved and following every detail, then you are in no position to judge the decisions of the judge. If all you know is second or third hand hearsay then you know nothing. TV news reports are, by definition, nothing but hearsay.

    Arthur is right, it’s lurid entertainment crime porn. But Karen Brauer has the right solution: turn off your TV. And keep it off. That way you won’t be tempted to take such nonsense seriously enough to worry about it.

    That being said, I’m glad Roger is following this stuff and reporting on it because I sure don’t want to.


    1. To say that I’m “following” it might be an overstatement. I have learned, e.g., that I can watch the first half hour of GMA or Today and miss everything except the tease for “Casey Anthony will be released this weekend” segment; I now know more than I need, and the TV went off.

      As I said originally, as long as it stayed off the 6:30 broadcast, I was able to (mostly) avoid it. But when the jury started deliberations, it showed up on the primary broadcast on ABC and NBC, and I waded through it to get to the stuff I actually cared about.


  7. Where I know they cannot take it on the Supreme Court docket. The lady seemed to be let it go along with the law in the terrain affirms your lover can not be trialed for the same task. Currently whenever the federal government realizes this there will probably be quite a few evidence of a hate transgression they could deliver the woman’s to test. It really is circumstantial in addition to in terms of I will be worried the woman’s actions of possibly not confirming the woman’s child lacking proved that will she had been guilty.


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