Ethics Heroes: The Casey Anthony Jury

America saved Casey Anthony, and we should be glad it did.

A Florida jury pronounced Casey Anthony not guilty of murder, aggravated child abuse or aggravated manslaughter in connection with the 2008 death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. It did find that she had lied to investigators and police, which was well-established during the trial.

Did she murder her daughter, as the prosecution claimed? Oh, sure she did; I don’t think any of the jury members will be asking Anthony to babysit for their kids any time soon. But the case against her was circumstantial. She was proven to be a liar, irresponsible, feckless, self-centered, deluded and callous, and the prosecution’s theory made a lot more sense that the defense’s alternative scenario. Still, there was not enough evidence to find Casey Anthony guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the standard, not “it’s almost certain that she did it.” Despite all the media pundits who said it would be a slam-dunk conviction, despite all the community sentiment to make the party girl mother pay with her life for killing her child, the evidence to meet the intentionally tough standard of American justice just wasn’t there.

Already, reporters and commentators are comparing the verdict to the O.J. Simpson trial. Wrong. Simpson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and no fair examination of the evidence presented would yield another verdict. In that case, a badly-selected, biased, dim-bulb jury* was ill-served by amateurish prosecutors and an inept judge, then manipulated by three of the most effective, ruthless criminal defense lawyers on earth. Simpson was guilty of a double murder, and got away with it because of ineptitude and stupidity. Casey Anthony killed her daughter, and got away with it because the criminal justice system worked. 

The jury in the Anthony trial did the right thing, even though it benefited an evil woman. In America, simply knowing someone is guilty isn’t enough, and we are all safer because of it. We owe a debt of gratitude to the twelve jurors for  upholding one of the most important traditions of our justice system, when everyone was calling for them to do otherwise.

___________

* Note: This was a stupid and unfair comment regarding the Simpson jury, and I regret and apologize for it. More about that here.

45 thoughts on “Ethics Heroes: The Casey Anthony Jury

  1. On Twitter, Nancy Grace is trending right below Casey Anthony. Can we get a Dunce status for her for just being her usual, toxic self?

  2. If that is justice, then we need a new system. Justice will be for someone in Florida to take her life and get away with it the same way she did……………

    • What system would you prefer..one in which authorities and the press just decide you are guilty and have you executed? We prefer to see the guilty go free than to but innocent people in jail. I think that’s the proper priority.

  3. I think that unless you see a murder happen with your own eyes, or see it happen on video, there is always some sort of doubt in every murder case (if we’re being honest). Defendants have been convicted on far less than this…exactly which ethical code would have prevented the jurors from choosing the manslaughter charge? That would have been life, with the possibility of parole.

    • The fact that some jurors have convicted when the beyond the reasonable doubt standard wasn’t met isn’t an argument for doing more of it, now is it? The manslaughter charge still requires sufficient proof that Casey killed her daughter. Her story, far fetched as it seemed, was more or less supported by the evidence as much as the murder theory. You don’t have to see the murder with your own eyes. But you need a motive (the motive was weak); a weapon (there was none); forensic evidence (“smell” isn’t much)….something more than strong suspicion. Sorry. Some people get away with murder.

      • Yes, I am well aware of that. However, those jurors do not deserve to be praised as “ethics heroes” by anyone other than Casey’s snake of a lawyer, who wouldn’t know an ethic if it slapped him in the face. I don’t know whether Casey actually murdered her daughter or not. What I do know is that there is little reasonable doubt that she knew the girl was dead, most likely drove around with her body in the trunk of her car, that is until it started to decompose and smell and become inconvenient for her, and that she was having a whole hell of a lot of fun until she got arrested. There is nothing ethical about anything associated with this case. I know that you write a blog about ethics, so it’s what you’re about. I get that and you have your opinions and have a right to write anything you wish. Good for you. However, you might want to rethink your inclusion of this case because a discussion of the ethics of the jurors is irrelevant. And the tone of your prose regarding what happened to this little girl is somewhat callous, to say the least. It is as if you are demanding that the world just “get over it”. Sorry. Ain’t gonna happen…

        • No, I’m telling everyone to learn how the justice system works and why it is set up the way it is. You would convict Casey because she’s a sociopath, a sicko, a liar and a creep. none of that is illegal. The jury’s ethics are impeccable, because they rejected yours—which would have citizens convicted for being “bad” or “suspicious” rather than demonstrably guilty.

          I never said or implied “get over it.” Watching a likely murderer walk is never nice—it should upset us. But don’t blame the jury. They did their job, even though Nancy Grace and you would have been happy with a kangaroo court or a Star Chamber.. They are heroes.

          • It’s their, BTW, not “thier”. And I’m not sure where you get off presuming to know what MY ethics are, or Nancy Grace’s either, for that matter. Maybe you actually know her…I doubt it, but maybe. I do know that you don’t know me at all, certainly not well enough to make sweeping statements about what I would have happen to Casey Anthony. Regardless, I can see that you are unwilling to actually hear or listen to anyone but yourself, so have at it! I do hope that nothing like this ever happens to someone that you care about, and you have to read some ass on the internet making comments like the ones you are making…Buh-Bye now…

            • Gee, thanks for the gratuitous typo correction, the calling card of a bankrupt argument. (Where did the “witty” come from? it certainly isn’t from your rapier rhetoric.) Sure, I can tell something about your ethics by your argument in this case, which essentially embraces non-ethical considerations over ethical reasoning. Nancy Grace? She’s a blatantly unfair analyst who deals in making inflammatory conclusions without proper concern for due process or basic standards of evidence. I don’t have to know her—I hear what she has to say. You don’t even know what ethics are. I would have suggested that you read a bit here and learn something before shooting off your keyboard.

              Next you assert with an irrelevancy—the ethics of the jury have zero—z-e-r-o– to do with the tragedy of the girl’s death, and that would be true no matter whose child she is. I love listening to other opinions; I don’t enjoy listening to emotion-based rants that have nothing to do with the topic at hand—that is, the standards of guilt in a criminal trial.

              Then you close with a personal insult—sign two of someone who’s out of logical bullets, and just wants to lash out. Thanks—you’re an excellent example of the kind of thinking I am writing this blog to discourage, recognizing that some are just too far gone to start being rational. Too bad. Buh-Bye yourself. Don’t let the blog hit you on the way out.

        • Yours is a theory, not a fact. Theories still need to be proven. Reasonable doubt pertains to whether there is a reason to believe that the accused could be innocent. In other words the question of reasonable doubt does not pertain to a presumption of guilt, but to the matter that the facts presented do not leave the door open to innocence in any sort of way beyond doubt.

  4. Jack, The wild card in our system of jurisprudence is the definition of “reasonable.” It is a subjective term and in some ways can be said to be in the eye of the beholder. I looked up the definition of reasonable which triggers a look for reason (I suppose as chlorophyll might trigger chloroform — Ha!). Here’s what I found:

    Reasonable
    1. Capable of reasoning; rational: a reasonable person.
    2. Governed by or being in accordance with reason or sound thinking.
    3. Being within the bounds of common sense.
    4. Showing reason or sound judgment.

    Reason
    1. A basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event
    2. A statement presented in justification or explanation of a belief or action.
    3. The mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences.
    4. To think or argue in a logical manner.

    For the most part these definitions only confuse the issue. So, I checked Idioms for reason and found:

    1. To convince, persuade, etc., by reasoning.
    2. To bring (someone) to reason, to induce a change of opinion in (someone) through presentation of arguments; convince
    3. In accord with reason; justifiable; proper

    These seem to be more applicable to the role of attorneys in our criminal justice system. In the end, it’s the system we have and is built on the premise that the wrongful conviction of a single innocent person is ten times worse than a guilty person going unpunished.

  5. The case was over prosecuted. Thank god for the fact that the jury was sequestered and not exposed to the irresponsibility we saw from the media. Today was a victory for the US legal system. I feel terrible for the victim but I am proud of the jurors on this case for properly evaluating the evidence that was presented to them in an unbiased manner.

  6. I’m surprised to see Jack state (in a comment, not in the article) that to convict “you need a motive.” That is not correct legally speaking as proving motive is not required as an element of murder.

    If the rest of the jurors thought the way the alternate who spoke did, heaven help us. The alternate is a civics teacher and spy/conspiracy novel fan who said the prosecution didn’t prove it WASN’T an accident. IMO, and it is MY opinion, the case for at least manslaughter was proven way beyond a reasonable doubt when the totality of the evidence is considered. The state does not have to disprove ALL possible explanations to prove its theory beyond a reasonable doubt and I hate that he is teaching students that is the way it works. Maybe Lee killed her because he was still mad about being left out of the pregnancy. Maybe Amy H was so jealous of Casey’s ability to attract men she killed Caylee. Maybe the “sleepy bamboo-eating Yorkie puppies” attacked Caylee. Maybe Martians did it. No, there isn’t much evidence for those possibilities but there is as much as for an accident involving George. Lee did cry on the stand and said he was so angry about being left out he didn’t go into the nursery for months even though it was next to his bedroom. On cross, Baez portrayed Amy as jealous of Casey. And Cindy claimed to have done the computer searches because her dogs were acting strange.

    • Lizzie—I didn’t say either of those things. I may not have been clear. I said that you need something substantial in the absence of a motive and the rest of the classic elements that indicate guilt. I absolutely never said anything about having to disprove every possible alternative theory. But if there are a lot of plausible theories that fit the offered evidence, usually the jury will not and should not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    • Addendum: that list of factors was intended to be cumulative. If you don’t have a motive, then you better have a weapon, or clear forensic evidence tying the accused to the crime, or both. Here there wasn’t even a definite cause of death, and you had a “motive” that was pure speculation—a mother that nobody could show was abusive or a bad parent supposedly wanted to kill her little girl so she could go to more parties. I think that’s a really good guess, but that’s far from a solid motive.

  7. Hi Jack, Your statement about motive was not clear to me. And apparently the rest of my post wasn’t clear to you. The alternate juror (not you) DID say “the prosecution never disproved it was an accident.” How can one disprove something that there was no real evidence for in the first place? River Cruz wasn’t credible to me and about the only other pool accident “evidence” there was
    1. there was (and still is) an above-ground pool
    2. Caylee liked the pool
    3. Cindy’s claim she called George at work that day about the ladder being down on the 16th. This was disproven IMO during rebuttal by the phone records for the house phone and Cindy’s cell that showed no call to George that day. In her 2009 deposition Cindy had also said she found the ladder down “sometime” the week before the gas can incident (the 24th) but she was sure she put it away on the 15th, By time of trial she was sure it was down on the 16th which is more than a week before she said in deposition (and a more precise and useful date to Casey). Not credible to me. So all we are left with a child who liked to swim—therefore she might have drowned even though Casey denied that several times back in 2008 according to trial evidence.

    Of course, if there are plausible rival hypotheses, then that provides reasonable doubt. But simply saying something else COULD have happened is not reasonable (maybe Caylee liked candy and there was hard candy found in the house so she must have choked; maybe she electrocuted herself by poking a metal object in a wall socket—since “wonderful mother” Casey–the actual person responsible for the child– hadn’t bothered to equip the house with child locks on the exterior doors, maybe there were no guards on the sockets, maybe she scalded herself to death trying to take a bath by herself. If she liked the pool, maybe she liked baths. So any and all of those things COULD have happened and have not be disproven either.) Also, while motive is not required as an element, it is also not reasonable to conclude in a case where there WAS a strong motive shown (not referring to this case), the person must have done it in the absence of any other evidence. Saying that the lack of weapon would be trumped by motive makes it sound that way.

  8. The alternate juror (not you) DID say “the prosecution never disproved it was an accident.” How can one disprove something that there was no real evidence for in the first place?

    The juror was spot on. The prosecution has to prove a crime was committed. If it’s reasonable to think it could have been an accident, it’s pretty hard for the jury can’t even determine if a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt, much less a crime by this defendant.

    Also, while motive is not required as an element, it is also not reasonable to conclude in a case where there WAS a strong motive shown (not referring to this case), the person must have done it in the absence of any other evidence. Saying that the lack of weapon would be trumped by motive makes it sound that way.

    In no way does Jack imply that existence of motive overrides lack of other evidence. You’re invalidly assuming the converse of his statement is true.

    • That’s right. The prosecution can’t have facts that equally support a crime and an accident and not effectively rule out the accident possibility, and then expect a guilty plea. In fact, the prosecution never proved anything about the circumstances of Caylee’s death, just that the conduct of her mother after the death was suspicious, strange, or unhinged.

      If any jurors watch TV, the scenario in which a parent or someone else panics after an accidental death and tries to hide it, sometimes making it look like a kidnapping or murder, is a common one. These fictional representations show exactly how such a death, even with the subsequent conduct, could reasonably be an accident.

  9. For me, I don’t find the pool accident theory persuasive for reasons stated above but others may. But what the alternate said was, in effect, as long as the state didn’t “disprove” something happened, there ALWAYS would be “reasonable doubt.” (I’d argue that what he really meant was “a shadow of doubt” which isn’t the standard.) Let’s say there was a video of a killing. And let’s say jurors didn’t think it was doctored. Let’s also say there was DNA. (A situation that would rarely arise in a real crime) Would the state have to prove it was NOT the secret evil identical twin no one had ever met instead of the defendant on tape? Especially if the defense argued that at opening? Sounds like that would be necessary for this juror. I find that an unreasonably stringent definition of reasonable doubt and a lack of common sense. While I don’t want to see juries rubber-stamp cases, when they check their common sense at the door, they may also rush to convict with NO evidence. So I’m not ready to celebrate our system based on this verdict. I’m also concerned the alternate juror who did not deliberate said (to HLN) “We had reasonable doubt” not “I had reasonable doubt.” That sure makes it sound like there could have been behind the scenes discussion in violation of the judge’s orders.

    • Boy, you’re really reaching, I think. There is nothing wrong with an alternate saying “we”—an alternate is still a member of the jury.
      The juror’s words were imprecise (if indeed he was quoted correctly). But again…there was no evidence how Caylee died at all. The accident theory doesn’t have to be persuasive, it has to be plausible given the evidence. If it is, that makes reasonable doubt hard to overcome. A plausible alternative IS reasonable doubt. Your hypothetical, in contrast, isn’t plausible, just theoretically possible…and that doesn’t rule out guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

  10. OK. I’ll give this up. Obviously a “plausible” versus a “theoretical” alternative scenario is in the eye of the beholder. You’ll not convince me to accept your decision on what is plausible for reasonable doubt versus what is only theoretical any more than you’ll accept my ideas. But the HLN interview yesterday—the first of about 10 interviews this alternate has given so far– is another matter. No misquote–I saw the actual interview and he clearly said WE. (I don’t have a link but I’m sure film is on the web somewhere and it was “we”) Yes, he was a member of the jury panel, but none of them should have discussed the evidence until deliberation. Although it had been decided at jury selection so everyone else knew who was a “real juror” apparently the jury members didn’t know who was an alternate until they left the room to deliberate and the 5 alternates were plucked out of line and taken away. The alternate also had no post-verdict contact with the jury prior to the interview. I just cannot imagine many non-deliberating alternates answer the question “what do you think the reasons were for the jury’s decision on these 3 counts” with “we thought…” The use of proper pronouns is so ingrained in native English speakers. People just don’t use “we” to mean “I” and this isn’t quite like his referring to himself as a juror. I don’t find it reaching at all and think some premature discussion is a likely outcome when sequestering lasts so long. Another issue that troubles me along the same line (but I suspect you’ll say it is
    reaching too)…although they did take notes during the trial, most of the jurors left their notebooks in the courtroom even though they were allowed to take them to deliberate. The judge had to order a deputy to deliver them to the room. Even if each juror was convinced he/she was certain about his/her own verdict, how did so many think they didn’t need their notes? How would each have known there wouldn’t be dissent and prolonged discussion? When I’ve been on a jury (non-sequestered) I’ve not had a clue what others were thinking until we got into the deliberation room.

    • 1) I really do think you are reading a great deal into one pronoun. He was asked as a member of the jury, not an individual.
      2) The failure to take the notes would tell me that they didn’t think they needed the note—if the burden of proof wasn’t met, it wasn’t met. (On the jury I was on, we weren’t allowed notes). Notes are of dubious value. The jury can ask for transcripts and evidence,
      3) Not to niggle, but “plausible” means “reasonably possible” which on the spectrum from “Certainty” to “Impossible” is near the midpoint, on the “Certainty” side. “Theoretically Possible” is well past the mid-point in the other direction. For example, it is theoretically possible, due to entropy, that all the atoms in my computer screen will suddenly move upward at the same time, causing to rise off my desk for a second. It is far, far from plausible, however—barely possible, highly unlikely. Some thing like that will not undermine reasonable doubt—a plausible alternative often will.

  11. Hi Jack, you say in your blog.

    “Did she murder her daughter, as the prosecution claimed? Oh, sure she did; I don’t think any of the jury members will be asking Anthony to babysit for their kids any time soon”.

    .By this comment it’s sounds like you’re positive of her guilt? So if you were on the jury and acquitted her that makes you a hero how? Are the Scott Peterson jury not cowards then because that was mostly circumstantial evidence case too?

    I would also like to know what the reasonable doubt was that I missed.

    • “Positive”? My logic tells me she’s probably guilty. She wasn’t proved guilty by the evidence presented at court. The jury isn’t there to vote on their opinion, they are there to vote on what the admissible evidence has shown.

      A jury that does its duty by following the standards set by the justice system rather than their own personal assessments, using the judge’s instructions, ignoring popular opinion, is ethical and courageous. This can’t be as hard to comprehend as some of you make it seem.

      “I would also like to know what the reasonable doubt was that I missed.” Really, Willem? How about “how was Caylee killed and who killed her?” And “If it was her mother, why?” You can’t answer any questions about anything that didn’t occur until after the girl’s death. Neither could the prosecution or the jury.

      This just isn’t that difficult.

  12. OK. When I said I gave up, I lied (like Casey) and I’ve got a few more issues. The jury could not “ask for transcripts.” They could ask for a read-back in court of particular sections (a bit different from getting a transcript to flip through) but they did not. I agree that an individual leaving a notebook may mean the individual was convinced. No argument there. But how did they ALL (well ,13-14/17 jurors) know they wouldn’t need their notebooks to convince SOMEONE else? I doubt your jury duty was this long (mine surely wasn’t) and there was alot of evidence here and for all that each of them individually knew, this evidence COULD have convinced the others. That is, it could have unless they’d already talked. I still say, saying “we thought” without ANY discussion was very weird. A Freudian slip of sorts. But I guess we’ll never know about that. Juror #3 now has told ABC (in exchange for a trip to Disney for her extended family) that they couldn’t decide “the punishment” since some elements of what happened weren’t clear. I guess more to come (but I doubt we’ll hear from #6 who won’t entertain interview offers that come in for less than 6 figures)

    • The juror who was interviewed, like the prosecutor, intimated that without cause of death or motive, there wasn’t enough for a verdict of guilt BARD. You don’t need notes to remind you of what wasn’t in evidence.

  13. Strength of motive was definitely key. The jury needed to see Caylee was an anchor to Casey, but I guess it was not easy.to drive home. I live in Canada where guns are few and good old fashion street justice is served up with a cold stare or maybe even a knuckle sammich. In the good old US of A however you have all kinds of guns, and wallymart is having a big sale on scopes yeeeeeehaw!
    Okay, that was unethical but In my defense I was thinking, shot to the womb not the head.

  14. “there wasn’t enough for a verdict of guilt BARD. You don’t need notes to remind you of what wasn’t in evidence.” No, but you would need notes to argue your points about lack of convincing evidence if you intended to actually fairly deliberate (versus hold your breathe til you turned blue or more likely, spend the time with your buddies talking about how we knew all along” she wasn’t guilty based on prior conversations)

  15. What’s the notebook going to say Lizzie?

    Day 1: Didn’t hear how she was killed, maybe tomorrow.
    Day 2: Didn’t hear how she was killed, maybe tomorrow.
    Day 3: She went dancing after her daughter was missing, Didn’t hear how she was killed, maybe tomorrow.
    Day 4: Didn’t hear how she was killed, maybe tomorrow.

    • Yes, this is exactly my thinking. Without evidence that the girl was killed by her mother, including how, I wouldn’t need anything else. “Acting suspiciously after the death”_-check. “Congenital liar”–check. “Seemed to enjoy not having her daughter around”–check. But the smell evidence was equivocal, and the big argument: why put tape over the girl’s mouth if you didn’t kill her 1) STILL didn’t prove who killed her and 2) I can think of plenty of reasons that make as much sense as any other theory. “Yup—I bet she’s guilty, and its a damn shame there isn’t enough evidence to prove it.”

      And the quick deliberation time backs that up.

  16. The jury isn’t completely out yet on Casey Anthony and her fate. A very popular online Petition is gathering steam at the Department of Justice. Go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com and read the petition titled “Petition For The Federal Government To Prosecute Casey Anthony”. If Attorney general Eric Holder is all about child’s rights as he claims to be, we may well see the feds step in and prosecute Killer Casey.

    • No, David..that petition is garbage. She can’t be tried for the same crime again, That’s in the Constitution. She could be tried for a different Federal crime for the same act, but what act would that be? Give it up.

  17. I don’t know what the notes they took said–none of us here do. But during the trial, it was reported many jurors did take notes at various times. It would seem to ME, that it is more logical to assume a juror would be writing down things that he/she thougtht were important for deliberation/decision rather than constantly needing to record phrases like “not proven” or “reasonable doubt” etc.(Did they think they might forget those points?) I believe also the notebooks had to be left in their seats in the jury box during recesses so the first time they would have been able to review their notes in full would be when they were sent back. It just seems odd that so many were confident they didn’t need what they’d been writing down for 6 weeks. It may be as you say Tim and Jack, that each juror had his/her mind made up, but how did each one know the others did too and would be thinking the same way? Of course, for all any of us know they were doodling, drawing pictures of people in the courtroom, composing poetry, and making a grocery list for when they finally got out of there and were not really taking notes!

  18. I’ve read all the comments to Jack’s original blog, comments by readers, and replies, and I would like to ask everyone furious about the jury decision to re-direct their energy into doing something positive. There is a law being introduced in Florida — Caylee’s Law — to make it a crime to fail to report a missing child after two days. There are many child advocacy groups in need of volunteers. Please seek out positive ways to channel your energies in this matter. If you are looking for someone to blame, it’s the prosecutors who over-charged. This would have been a slam dunk case for involuntary manslaughter or some such charge without tainting it with an unproveable first degree murder charge. The jury would have bought the explanation that Casey chloroformed Caylee and it got away from her. With respect to the role of jurors in general and in this case, this is the system we have. They can’t be forced to take notes or even be attentive. Moreover, I believe the sequestering of a jury is a bad idea. They bond with each other and it becomes more difficult to change a person’s mind especially if the strong personalities on the jury believed there was reasonable doubt. I agree with Jack: Let’s move on!

  19. A couple evenings ago, while visiting friends, we all were watching the evening news and learned of the verdict. All were surprised by the outcome, but felt it was expected. None of us are attorneys. After much discussion and what little we know about the law, we each came to the conclusion the prosecutors over-charged.

    After reading Ethics Sage comments and your response, I guess we weren’t too far off. The loss of this little, beautiful child is a tragedy. Hopefully, one day the truth will be revealed.

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