I don’t know what happened to Caylee Anthony. I can speculate – as has most of the country it seems, and I would probably be wrong. What I do know is the right verdict was rendered this week, even if we all feel a little tainted that there is no accounting for the loss of Caylee.
I’ve been on both ends of the legal system. Thrice I’ve served on juries, two criminal, one civil. On the latter two, I was the jury foreman. And due to my personal issues in the early 2000s, I was on the criminal end of a federal conviction in 2009 (I pled guilty, there was no trial.) Beyond that, for four years, I investigated and wrote legal determinations on unemployment compensation cases, where the measure we worked with was a preponderance of the evidence – the facts of the case.
In my experience, juries are unpredictable. There is a tendency for people to decide guilt or innocence based on their impressions of the defendant, and not by the facts presented to them by the prosecution and by the defence. If there is not a jurist, preferably the foreman, who can keep a jury focused on the evidence, the potential exists for a verdict based on emotion.
A good jury will take the facts of the prosecution, set them out in sequence, and try to poke holes in the overall picture it creates. Search for other possibilities. In turn, a good prosecution team will anticipate what holes a jury may find, and will present evidence closing those holes. If they do not…
In both cases I had as foreman, I worked hard to keep focus. On one, I had the assistance of a corporate attorney. Initially, that jury was close to conviction at 10-2, but three hours later, it acquitted – because we poked holes that could not be closed based on the evidentiary world within which we lived on that case. We could not speculate away those holes.
In the Anthony trial, I could drive a truck through the holes of the case. The prosecution had only circumstantial evidence and suspicion on its side. It left a whole lot of holes open that it only tried to close with scepticism. Not good enough.
That the jury acted so quickly tells me that they saw holes that had no hope of closure; that alone made sifting all the evidence moot. One hole, one reasonable doubt, and they had to acquit.
Not guilty is not a declaration of innocence. I can speculate like everyone else, but I won’t. What I wish to see now is respect for life. Yes, Caylee is gone, and no, no one can bring her back. Pema Chödrön claims that every living being without exception, has the potential to awaken. Well, that is where Casey Anthony is right now. She has a second chance in life, and she has a choice. Does she continue as before, or does she learn from all of this and work to build a better life?
And how about the rest of us? We are a nation where many are Christians, and in the Christian realm, forgiveness is a primary tenet. Whatever our faith (and I am not Christian) we should consider forgiveness dear. Are we ready to exercise forgiveness and give Casey the encouragement to build a better life, or are we to be complicit in her destruction? Which path do you believe your deity would wish you to walk? Me, I look to human beings, I look to see constructive movement towards better. I do not wish to see another tragedy emerge out of this. Somehow, a family has to heal. Somehow, the individuals of that family have to move forward, and I for one have no wish to stand in their way.