Saturday, July 9, 2011

Caylee's legacy

By Don Klein

To most of us it is inconceivable that a parent would not report the missing child for 31 days. It is unimaginable that during those 31 days that the parent would go out dancing and revel with friends and never saying anything about the child.

It certainly is the behavior of a irresponsible, self-centered and immature mother to act that way. But that does not prove her guilty of murder as so many sidewalk busybodies have concluded.

The Casey Anthony case is a sad one no matter how you look at it. To begin with it is the lose of the life of the sweet-faced, playful little two year old Caylee who deserved a lot better than she got. Looking at that pixilated little victim on TV screens is enough to break your heart.

It is also sad that the Florida prosecutor, who leveled serious capital charges against this foolish 25-year-old mother, apparently saw an opportunity to make a name for himself by setting in motion a trial that had no real evidence. He clearly was not seeking justice for Caylee he was seeking headlines for himself, which he got.

And finally it is sad to observe on cable television a street full of gabby gossipers crying their eyes out as they shouted their disapproval of the jury’s verdict in this case. Not only did they demonstrate the worst understanding of the American judicial system, they helped create a lynch mob atmosphere by their rage.

The blabbermouths who screamed into the microphones held by cable TV minions decided with outlandish conviction that the defendant was guilty without ever hearing a word of testimony in the courtroom. They completely disregarded the basic rule of criminal justice in this county – the presumption of innocence.

Listen to any judge as he charges any jury saying that just because the prosecutor brings charges against a defendant that does not mean the defendant is guilty. The case has to be proven by the evidence presented in court and not whatever is seen or heard anyway else.

The founding fathers knew that when they included due process in the nation’s basic law, the Constitution.

In this country you are innocent until proven guilty, yet to those meddlers outside the courthouse, Casey Anthony was guilty no matter how wanting was the case against her. They wrongly compared the verdict to the infamous Los Angeles trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995.

Admittedly I did not follow the Anthony trial during its lengthy and sordid telling on television but of course I could not avoid learning of the verdict and all the hubbub that followed. The recapitulations I heard and read left me with the feeling that the case against the errant mother was never proved.

Inasmuch as there was no cogent evidence of her guilt the jury did the right thing in finding her not guilty. This is a mystery which will never be solved. It could have been a case of getting away with murder, or a foolish attempt to coverup an accident, or possibly some other explanation. The only important issue here is that the prosecutors failed to prove murder and the jury knew that better than anyone else.

This trial, and others, have sharpened my feeling that journalists have to be restrained in their handling of capital cases. Pretrial publicity often is horrendous and nourished by devious attorneys eager to make their case before the public.

Although I believe strongly that trials should be open to the public and fully reported in the press I do not favor televising trials. That often leads lawyers and judges to showboating and leaves commentators like Nancy Grace, of HLN channel, and others to prejudge the case before thousands of viewers.

Although it is far from perfect, I like the jury system and rarely dispute its decisions. As far as I am concerned the key to any case is what motivates the prosecutor, not what motivates the defendant. District attorneys who take their oaths to represent the interests of all the people, which includes those accused of crimes, are unique in America. Most seek justice often in “hot” cases to enhance their ambitions.

In that regard I take my hat off to Cyrus Vance, Jr., the New York D.A., who handled the ticklish rape charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn as well as he could. He looked at the evidence against the Frenchman and found it weak and possibly unsubstantiated. He is considering decreasing the charges.

The foreign accusations of some branding the US judicial system as “rushing to judgment” in the Strauss-Kahn case are ridiculous. The man was on a Paris-bound flight and had to be arrested before the victim’s claims could be fully verified and he fled the country’s jurisdiction. Once investigation proved the alleged victim was not credible, the charges were lowered.

In both cases, Anthony and Strauss-Kahn, I think Americans can be proud of the action in its courts. More importantly, the Anthony case has spurred more than a dozen states to propose laws which in the past I think were never necessary. These laws would make it a crime for a parent not to report a missing or dead child within a brief time period.

That, sadly for poor Caylee Anthony, would be her only legacy to the rest of us.

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