Justice Didn’t Take a Holiday
Sitting in court today, I found it ironic and so apropos that the fate of Casey Anthony was delivered into the hands of a jury of her peers on Independence Day. For nearly three years she has been afforded the presumption of innocence while the murder case against her slowly inched through our legal system. She has had the luxury of being ensnared by a judicial system that seeks to ensure a defendant's right to a fair trial.
It can be such a long process that many of us, me included, feel the victim is often forgotten, or at least minimizedwhile the accused receives every courtesy our Constitution affords him or her. For that, Casey Anthony should thank her lucky stars she had her day in court on American soil. But I have faith that the jury of seven women and five men will not forget Caylee during their deliberations. The little girl will get justice, of that I am certain.
The jury will find Casey guilty of murder in the first degree, but her life will be spared. In that, Baez will have a victory, for anything less than the death penalty in this case will not be a popular outcome with the public.
I’m speculating, of course, but aren’t we all at this point? For nearly three years we’ve watched this drama play out in slow motion, with it culminating in a courtroom that at times resembled the Roman Coliseum as one witness after another was thrown to the lions in the defense’s effort to save Casey.
It was ugly, which may offer an alternative explanation for why justice is blind: She doesn’t want to see what really goes on in a court of law. In his pursuit of the truth, Baez conjured up a conspiracy theory that involved just about anyone who had anything to do with the State’s case against his client. Everyone on the State’s witness list was either a liar or a shady character, or worse when Baez got around to Casey’s father and Roy Kronk.
There were so many aspects of Casey’s defense that were mishandled, in particular the opening argument by Baez. His claims that George molested Casey as a child and covered up Caylee’s accidental drowning while Kronk somehow, someway was involved in the disposal of the child’s body never went anywhere. Years from now, law schools will use that opening as an example of how NOT to stage a defense in a high-profile murder trial. Baez and company failed Casey from the get-go.The State, meanwhile, brought out more than 300 pieces of evidence that it said linked Casey to the murder of her daughter. The prosecution did a masterful job in presenting a methodical case against Casey, complementing witness accounts of the defendant’s bizarre actions with forensic evidence that pointed to foul play in Caylee’s death.
Baez was simply outgunned as he attempted to impeach one State witness after another. Could everyone on the State’s side be lying? To hear Baez tell it, yes. Still I will give credit to Baez for never giving up the fight. Right up until his last words on Sunday, he was dedicated to his client. He did a bang-up job in his closing argument. He was well-prepared and, for nearly three hours, presented a cohesive narrative that was compelling, with graphics aiding his attempt to undermine the veracity of key evidence the State presented. He was persuasive in pointing out evidence and witnesses that he felt were suspect and untrustworthy, but I don’t think he was convincing in planting doubt.
Logic will rule the jury’s deliberations, and it was common sense that prosecutors Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick hammered home in their closing statements while disputing the possibilities that Baez offered. They were masterful and convincing.
On Monday morning, Ashton rose to the podium to address the jury. "People don't make accidents look like murder," he told them. That was a logical statement, and I believe it stuck with the jury. Drane Burdick followed Ashton, delivering a calmly stated rebuttal closing argument that stood as a strong contrast to Baez’ dramatic -- or desperate, depending on your point of view -- final day before the jury.
Hers were the last words the jury heard about Casey, and they were damning.
“Whose life was better without Caylee?” she asked, leaving that question hanging in the courtroom for all to ponder. Meanwhile, on the courtroom monitors flashed side-by-side photographs of Casey pole dancing and of her freckled shoulder with the Bella Vita tattoo.
And at that moment, Casey Anthony lost her presumption of innocence.
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