Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Justice for Caylee?

Casey Anthony was found “not guilty” of murdering her child.(For those outside the United States, this was a highly publicized trial of a mother accused of murdering her two-year old daughter, Caylee).

As soon as the verdict was announced, Facebook buzzed with opinions. Most of the comments I read reflected amazement that she had been acquitted. Some posted comments about “no justice for Caylee”.
I did not watch all the trial, and I really don’t know if the mother is guilty or not. I have an opinion, but I’ll keep it to myself. So what happened?

(1)    Keep in mind “not guilty” does not necessarily mean “innocent”.
(2)    Within our judicial system, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
(3)    A jury decided she was not guilty. Not the state, not the judge, not the judicial system, not the press (well, the press didn’t get to officially decide). A jury of twelve regular people, like you and me, made the decision.
(4)    For the jury to find a defendant guilty, the prosecution must convince the jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that she is guilty.
(5)    The jury, apparently, was not convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In fact, a Reuters news story stated that “State Attorney Lawson Lamar praised prosecutors' efforts and conceded that their circumstantial case was not enough to remove reasonable doubt for jurors.” Lamar added, "This is a dry-bones case. Very, very difficult to prove." One report claimed the problem was lack of convincing evidence, not superlative legal work by the defense. Regardless of the reason, the jury wasn’t convinced. And since we were not in the deliberation room, we don’t know why, exactly, they were not convinced.
So, where does “justice” fit into this scenario?
Some cases are messy. We want justice for the victim; we want the guilty party convicted. But, even if we think someone is guilty, even if the jury’s opinion is that the defendant is guilty, if the jurors aren’t convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt,” justice cannot allow them to say “guilty.” Justice must also protect the accused. And so sometimes we’re left frustrated. (I have no idea in this case what the jury thought. I’m just making the point that justice requires a higher standard than opinion).
Our system isn't perfect. Perfect justice hasn’t happened in Caylee’s situation. The guilty party is free, whether the mother actually did it, or someone else did it (and I'm not saying who is to blame for this). Sometimes justice doesn’t happen in this world. But I am grateful we have a perfectly righteous judge who will eventually sort everything out. He knows the truth in this case.
Personally, I am grateful God doesn’t always deal with us on the basis of justice. In myself, I deserve judgment because by nature and practice, I am a sinner. But He has dealt graciously with me when He forgave me of every single sin (Col. 2:13). Jesus satisfied God’s righteous demands for sin when “He who knew no sin became sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Justice: The price paid in full. Grace: Someone else paid it for us, and God freely gave eternal life when we believed in Jesus, the “someone” who satisfied God’s justice.


  1. The reason people are upset is that justice was almost certainly NOT done, and that there was not any real basis for reasonable doubt.

    The 30 days of partying after Caylee disappeared, the lies to Casey's parents about Caylee's whereabouts during this time, the lies to investigators trying to find Caylee, the stench of rotting human flesh in the back of Casey's car: to a reasonable person, these facts pointed to, at the very least, knowing collusion & coverup in Caylee's demise.

    Some jurors demand eyewitness testimony, or a DNA match, because they've watched CSI and that's the way it works on TV. But in real life, sometimes all we have is circumstantial evidence. In this case, most reasonable folks would say it was strong enough to convict.

    And sometimes the jury ignores even the strongest evidence, making a mockery of the "justice" system. O.J. Simpson, anyone?

  2. Thanks, Frank

    I don't know what was said in the deliberation room, but it was the entire jury - not a hung jury - that made the decision. It really doesn;t matter what the TV viewers thought. And maybe a different jury would make a different decision. But I assume, as a whole, that juries are, in fact, made up of "reasonable folk" (after all, I've been on a jury and called several times to jury duty!!!). Our system isn't perfect; but I'll take it over just about anything else in the world.

  3. Thanks, Roger. I agree we have a good, though highly imperfect system. It was interesting to hear prosecutors talk about the "CSI Effect" on juries, how juries now expect absolute high tech proof. What is considered reasonable doubt now would have been considered unreasonable just 10 or 15 years ago. No doubt this played a large role in the outcome.

    One positive is that the outrage so many feel is linked to our God-given desire for justice. Few of us have any direct stake in the outcome, after all. In fact, as taxpayers we should cheer for the ruling since it means we don't have to pay $25,000 a year to incarcerate Casey. Even if Casey got away with murder, it is very unlikely that she will try to kill us or our kin, right?

    But our outraged sense of injustice trumps our apparent self-interest. That reflects the image of a holy God, one who admonished us that it would be better to have a millstone tied around one's neck & be tossed into the sea than harm a child.

    Casey escaped jail. But I doubt she will escape the scorn and disgust of decent people, even as she cashes in on her notoriety. As for her final Judge, there will be no way to pull the wool over His eyes.