Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fiction and Reality

I got caught up in three books this week, two of which are pertinent to this entry. One was a book I actually read and one was an audio book. I was hooked on both so much that for the past two days almost all I have done (other than going to Ned's yesterday) is finish the books.

One was "The Confession," by John Grisham, whose hero is a defense attorney. In this book we find out what happens when your defendant is found guilty. He has been claiming that he is innocent for 9 years, and the book starts in the middle of the frenzy that goes on trying to keep him out of the death chamber....especially when the real guilty party comes forward voluntarily and agrees to confess to the crime, because he is dying and wants to die with a clear conscience. He has items belonging to the victim and says he is ready to lead the police to where he buried her

But the killer is 3 states away, newly released from prison, and on parole, so can't leave the state. An idealistic minister agrees to drive him to Texas to tell his story, even though it is against the law for him to leave the state.

Half of this book tells the story of the minister trying to get the killer to Texas in time to stop the execution, the other half is what effect that journey ultimately has on all the parties involved, from the young man about to be executed, to the cop whose brutality got a false confession from the guy about to be executed, to all of the attorneys on both side of the case. It details how it affects them, the judges, and the governor, and even the town where the execution is to take place and the effect it has on the pastor himself.

The second book was Michael Connelly's "The Fifth Witness," If you ever want to know how to structure a defense, this is a great book to read. A woman is accused of murder, though she insists she was framed, and you follow her attorney as he goes through all the steps of defending her. He also talks about how he presents his case to the jury–what part is play acting, what witnesses are presented for a smokescreen, what is grandstanding to the press, etc. etc. etc. You get the feeling that these attorneys care less about whether the clients are guilty or innocent and more about the game of getting them off.

I thought about both of these books when comments began to appear on the Internet about the injustice of Casey Anthony being found not guilty of the death of her daughter.

I have not followed the trial, though it has been impossible to turn it off since on some days it was All Case All Day. I try not to have an interest in the real life misery of people as their lives fall apart. But I also realize that things like this are a goldmine for the media. The most titillating bits are broadcast, the most remotely connected people are interviewed, the most adorable pictures of the victim are shown over and over again, therapists and attorneys who have zero connection to the case are interviewed as if they have some secret inside information. All offer speculation, nothing else. If you can get someone crying, it's a money shot.

But the thing is that we get the highlights. We don't get to examine the evidence or hear the jury instructions about what can and can't be considered in deliberation. The media fuels our need to know, satisfies our desire for hearing the most salacious tidbits.

I feel sorry for the members of this jury, who will surely be eviscerated in the court of public opinion.

I, too, want justice for Caylee and based on what the media has broadcase for the past several weeks it certainly seemed like there could be only one possible verdict.

But I was not a juror. I didn't have evidence and testimony under my fingertips. I didn't know what information I was permitted to use in deliberation and what I was not. Attorney summations lasted an hour or more and I did not hear those.

I thought back to the one jury I served on. It was a case of desecration of a graveyard. Four teenagers were involved. Three of them had already been tried and convicted. The fourth, our case, claimed the other three had offered him a ride home and on the way they stopped to overturn gravestones and otherwise create havoc in the cemetery. He claimed that he just sat in the car and watched and was not a part of the crime.

Now, looking at this kid, who looked the sort of kid who was most likely get get a wedgie and who was most likely to have a slushee tossed in his face, you just knew that he went along with the group, either out of fear of what they would do to him if he did not, or out of wanting to be part of the popular guys.

But the thing was that when we went into that jury room we had to admit that the district attorney had not proved her case beyond a shadow of a doubt. We could not, in good conscience convict him with the evidence she gave us and the instructions we were given.

And so I think about the Anthony jury and their work in coming up with a "not guilty" (which is different from "innocent") verdict. And I feel sorry for them for the criticism they are going to receive. I have to believe they did the best they could

There will never be the justice for Caylee that people are clamoring for, but if her mother is guilty of the crime, whether in jail or not, she will will get her punishment anyway. Can you imagine leaving the courtroom and going back to life as usual after this?


phonelady said...

Life as usual what is that after something like that happens ? Yes my dear there is a higher court and that she will be judged in as we all will and that is all I will say about that .

Harriet said...

I am still wondering what we all heard that the jury didn't hear. Because, while I did not hear proof that Casey was the one who killed her child, I heard enough about child endangerment and obstruction of an investigation to put her away for years.

Assuming -- because we must -- that the prosecutor is neither stupid nor on the take -- I continue to wonder. And ask myself, is it cheaper for the State to let her go and do more mischief than it is to feed and hous a criminal?

Kwizgiver said...

I haven't followed the trial closely but I agree with your sentiments.

Jennifer said...

Hardly life as usual. She's getting movie and book deal offers. Disgusting.

jon said...

I would have bet my life's savings that no group of 12 people would have found her innocent. This is hard to wrap my mind around.

Casey Anthony's life will be hell. She is not famous. She is infamous,
This injustice may end up being a strange kind of justice. People will not forget what she did and she did do something very wrong.

She may have eluded criminal justice but now she has no place to hide. Her face is very recognizable.
She is probably one of the most despised people in North America.
This is her destiny.