The most salacious of recent homicide trials, and a true guilty pleasure for over a million Americans, has concluded with an acquittal for Casey Anthony.
But does that mean she didn’t kill her daughter? Of course not.
Nor does it mean that our criminal justice system, as some have already stated, is flawed. Our court system has had its ups and downs through the course of our ongoing experiment in democracy, but it is still a humane and professional method for adjudicating right and wrong.
What the acquittal in the Anthony case does mean is that the prosecution failed to connect all the dots–motive, weapon, method, physical evidence, and testimony– in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony killed her 2 year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008. It is entirely plausible that proof beyond a reasonable doubt was simply beyond the means of this investigation, though the evidence did appear to be overwhelming…circumstantial, but overwhelming.
This case, for several disturbing reasons, became a must-see court television drama featuring a highly dysfunctional family. Casey, the young mother on trial for allegedly killing her daughter, provided a shock to the system by her bility to party hard immediately after her daughter disappeared. Or died, depending on how you view the evidence.
In the chaotic and non-linear world that is reality there are countless possibilities for how Caylee Anthony died. But one of the following two versions is most likely.
First, the prosecution offers this scenario: Casey routinely used duct tape and a seatbelt in lieu of a babysitter and finally succeeded in killing her daughter either intentionally or “accidentally.” The deceased child sat in the car seat long enough to decompose, leaving a smell that (and I can attest to this fact) simply refused to come out of the seats. Forensic experts fleshed out details and the rest of us filled in the blanks. This version is simple, straightforward and monstrous.
Or, if you prefer the second version offered by the defense, Casey was an irresponsible parent who failed to keep her child from drowning in a kiddie pool. The grief-stricken mother then decided not to summon aid, not to be truthful to police investigators and to deal with her pain by spending her nights drinking and dancing.
Though the facts and evidence in this case did not line up well enough, this is not an indication that the jury believes Casey is innocent. Nor does this acquittal prove the defense’s supposition that Caylee died in a swimming pool. The jury’s job was, of course, simply to weigh the evidence and make a judgment.
Now that Casey has had her day in court, those of us who kept abreast of this case are left with a lingering taste of bile. The reason for this is simple, regardless of which version you choose to believe–an innocent child is dead. Whether this most unthinkable of outcomes was a result of thoughtless negligence or intentional cruelty is almost beside the point.
Either version should make us want to scream out loud.