Wednesday, July 6, 2011

...beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

My friend, Tom Bier, Station Manager at Channel 3 in Madison, gives a compelling presentation regarding broadcast news to various civic groups and assemblies. Every time there’s a trial like the recently-concluded Casey Anthony trial, I think of Tom’s presentation, when he’s talking about covering high-profile trials, and after some exposition, asks “so….do you think we should have a law that forbids all media from covering trials until after the verdict is rendered, and then only if the accused is found guilty – show of hands?”

Without fail, just about everyone’s hand goes up. (Tom is great at setting this up, talking about things like “media bias” and “affecting the jury pool”.)

Then, he says, “so, you would have been OK with not seeing or hearing anything about the O. J. Simpson trial – he was found not guilty, you know?”

So it is with the Casey Anthony trial. Somebody killed that darling little girl. And somehow duct tape got on her little face. And her body got wrapped in a garbage bag and tossed into the woods. But all we know for sure is that Casey Anthony’s family defines “dysfunctional”.

There are thousands of murders and murder trials every year in our country. The heinous death of the two little boys in Madison, whose bodies were discovered Wednesday morning,  will not likely be the kind of case that garners national attention, like the case of the “disappearance” of Audrey Seiler a few years back.

A pretty young girl is one of the crucial elements that rockets a case to Nancy Grace level; Anthony’s case also involved an incredibly cute and defenseless little girl; and it had the crucial undertone of sex, with the notorious photos of Casey in a “hot body” contest at a bar and the photos of her partying with her young friends.

It’s not likely we’ll ever know what really happened. Because of the intense coverage for the past three years, we saw and heard things that the jurors may not have. And we did not have to sit in judgment of her, with the literal power of life and death over the troubled young woman.

Somebody killed that little girl. The prosecution’s case wavered; the expert testimony was not the kind of stuff you see on CSI; and, to the jury, it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Casey did it.

And in America, that’s all that counts.


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  2. I was on the air when the verdict came down, and I found the commentary from the several hundred random people the station is following on Twitter to be pretty disturbing--staggering amounts of ignorance regarding the way the legal system works, and the philosophy behind the idea of trial by jury.

    If I were on trial for anything, I'd hate to think the jury pool was full of dopes who think that if somebody looks or acts guilty, then they are guilty, no further proof required. Yet I suspect that if they were in Casey Anthony's position, these same dopes would want their lawyer to use the same tactics her lawyers used.