This blog post is the only commentary I will make on the subject of the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. You may feel free to comment on this post, but do not expect that I will respond.
I have spent the last three years studiously ignoring the Casey Anthony case. My general position regarding show trials has been, ever since the O.J. Simpson case, that I have no interest in them. I have never sat in judgment in such a case as a member of a jury, and for a variety of reasons I never will. (If you don’t understand why, ask a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney.) I also recognize no broader obligations of citizenship that would compel me to familiarize myself with the facts of such cases and offer an inexpert opinion on the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the prosecution of the case, or the appropriateness of the jury’s verdict. In the present instance, I am not and have never been a resident of the state of Florida, and I know next to nothing about the prevailing criminal laws, rules of criminal procedure, and rules of evidence. From the standpoint of a concerned citizen, I am far more concerned with macro-level statistics about criminal justice systems: things like racial disparities in incarceration rates and sentencing, irrationalities in mandatory sentencing guidelines, and so forth.
So, suffice it to say that I have made it so that I don’t know enough about the Casey Anthony trial to offer any kind of judgment on the jury’s verdict. I will leave that to others with more knowledge of the case and/or more relaxed epistemic scruples.
I do have one remark to make, though, on the opinion, widely reported as uncontroverted fact, that the verdict was somehow a “bombshell” or a “surprise.” I know a fair few attorneys. I did not conduct a poll of them all prior to the verdict, but from those who did comment in my presence, a consensus emerged around three points:
1) Casey Anthony is most likely guilty of murdering her daughter.
2) The prosecution did not meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.
3) Casey Anthony would probably be acquitted.
This consensus correctly predicted the outcome of the trial. Personally, since this consensus was expressed by multiple attorneys I trust and respect, I would have been surprised if the jury did convict. My impression is that the only ones who can claim to be blindsided by this verdict are a) those in the media who, for pay, have crafted a narrative whose only logical endings are Casey Anthony’s conviction or boundless outrage at her unthinkable acquittal, and b) those who have uncritically adopted that narrative as their own. My cynicism also leads me to speculate that those media figures who were most invested in the story knew full well that the jury was likely to acquit and so hyped the certainty of her guilt and eventual conviction as a way of manufacturing outrage at the outcome and driving ratings even higher.
No, wait, no one in the media could be that phony, that callous, that manipulative.
No, really. Could they?