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What Can We Learn from Casey Anthony?

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Absolutely nothing  --  or that is what many disgusted readers might say.  To which I reply:  I hear you.

But I think there are a couple of lessons  --  maybe more, but two I want to discuss just now.

First, as I said in an earlier post, we can learn that acceptance of fallibility and error, even outrageous error, is part of adult life.  I think, as many, many others do, that Casey Anthony almost certainly had some degree of criminal involvement in her daughter's death.  The acquittal on every felony charge strikes me the same way the OJ verdict did, namely, as an inexplicable blunder and a miscarriage of justice.

But, as I also said in that post, law is a bunch of trade-offs.  It's easily possible, for example, to imagine a country with no Double Jeopardy Clause, in which a reviewing court (or king or president) could toss the acquittals as farcical and order a new trial.  

The Double Jeopardy Clause was not written by people who thought acquittals are inevitably factually correct.  It was written by people who knew full well that some of them are wrong or even vile, but for whom restraining the awesome power of the state to hound its enemies was, on balance, the more important virtue.

Trade-offs and acceptance of error are not guaranteed to make us happy in the short run; indeed, they are pretty much guaranteed to do the opposite.  But the Framers did not write our Constitution for the short run.  We have become the leading country in the history of the world by honoring their foresight. 

The second lesson from this case is even less cheerful and, indeed, quite hard to stomach.  It hasn't taken 24 hours to show how gleefully degraded our culture has become.  Casey Anthony is very likely up to her ears in murder, and is a world-class liar by any accounting, but our entertainment culture is about to make her a rich celebrity.

This is the MSNBC headline:  "Next for Casey Anthony:  Big Bucks?   Acquitted of daughter's murder, lucrative network, book, movie deals await."  The story regrettably doesn't leave a whole lot to the imagination, e.g.:

She could take advantage of interest in the case to make a lot of money, according to People magazine writer Steve Helling.

"We are looking at networks, magazines that may pay; that will lead to books and movies, and (Casey) can make a lot of money off that," Helling told NBC station WESH-TV.

But the best, or worst, is further down the page:

[Ms.] Anthony reportedly has already been approached to star in a porn film.

Hours after Tuesday's verdict, Steve Hirsch, co-founder of adult-video producer Vivid Entertainment, called Anthony's lawyer, Jose Baez, to discuss the possibility of a business relationship, TMZ reported.

"Whether you agree with the verdict or not, Casey will want to move forward with her life and has a right to make a living. It's not going to be easy for her and we believe we can help her make the transition into a new life," Hirsch told TMZ.

"We've all seen the pictures of her partying and having a good time with friends where she definitely looks hot."

That's it!  She definitely looks hot!!  I mean, "whether you agree with the verdict or not"  --  i.e., whether she suffocated her two year-old daughter and threw her body in a swamp  --  hey, look, she's a celeb, she's 25, she's got a bod that won't quit.

I guess the only hopeful note to report out of this story is that at least a little pushback has begun:  "Helling said that People [Magazine] will not pay Anthony or her family for an interview because their readers may boycott the magazine."

Yes, well, one would hope.

2 Comments

The Anthony verdict leads this non-attorney to ponder whether cases built upon circumstantial evidence that establishes a clear mens rea will no longer be winnable?

In this CSI world, has DNA evidence become the sine qua non for conviction?

mjs,

I think it was just one really blockheaded jury -- either that, or there was something going on in that courtroom not visible on television.

The prosecution had its holes as to specifics, but the overall evidence of Casey Anthony's behavior makes it impossible to believe that she was not criminally responsible for the kid's death.

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