Prosecutors were guilty of overreaching in the Casey Anthony trial

July 08, 2011

Regarding the Casey Anthony case, the truth is hardly ever decided by courtroom antics played out for the camera. This was not about the truth. This was about obfuscation and casting doubt.

The defense did a good job of that. The prosecution overreached. The jury was not ready to convict a woman for her sociopathic behavior. They didn't have to buy the abuse story to set her free.

The burden of proof was on the prosecution, and the prosecution floundered because it didn't know how Caylee died. It concocted a theory about how she died, then corroborated its story with dubious science and a case built around the likelihood of an "evil" Casey Anthony who was disturbed and unpitying enough to be the Medea of Eurypides' tragedy.

If Casey Anthony had been a Sunday school teacher, would the prosecution have relied on this kind of a case? Let's say for 30 days after Caylee went missing, witnesses say Casey Anthony going to church and confession, her head bowed and rosary in hand. Would prosecutors have sought the death penalty then?

The prosecution played on cultural conditioning to win its case. The jury broke cultural conditioning to release Casey Anthony. It took great pains not to be influenced by her Bacchanalian post-Caylee disappearance spree. There was nothing to show Casey Anthony had been a bad or neglectful mom.

This case should be a lesson for all prosecutors. Sanctimony should not replace common sense, and prejudice and zealotry should not supplant the need for evidence. We shouldn't want Casey Anthony convicted solely to answer to the question "who else could have done it?"

Juries are unpredictable, even to those who vet them during jury selection. But tragically, in this country the shrill criticism of juries is growing.

When juries are told to honor the law in court, then blamed for not delivering justice, the critics should ask themselves: "How often are the law and justice synonymous?"

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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