I have been watching the television news coverage of a trial. Particularly, the verdict in the case of the death of Caylee Marie Anthony. The young mother Casey Anthony has been found not guilty on counts one thru three. Those charges were first degree murder, manslaughter, and child abuse. She was found guilty on four counts of lying to the police.
Most if not all of the reporters and commentators on my television were shocked by this. This troubles me on a couple of levels. First of all, reporters have no business what so ever expressing emotional response to the verdict. But second, universally these “reporters” had convicted this woman in their heads without the benefit of having sat in the jury box reviewing all of the evidence and arguments. I am very disappointed by this. I remember clearly having to listen to some stern words from my Journalism professor for writing one slightly editorial sentence in a 500 word newspaper article. In addition, I did not receive a great grade for the piece. Why aren't these people disciplined for this? Good grief why aren't they fired? As for commentators, they are hired specifically to render opinions. And they are and should be free to do just that. But I am still bothered by the fact that universally these talking heads were “shocked and upset” by the jury's verdict. If the impaneled jury including alternates were able to arrive at a “not guilty” verdict, perhaps there is some benefit from sitting in the jury box, examining all of the evidence, and hearing all of the testimony and arguments. In my opinion, this speaks volumes to the value of this kind of courtroom coverage. I firmly believe there is a huge lesson to be learned here for news directors nationwide. I hope that they are paying attention.
In addition to the reporters and pundits, nearly all of my friends were of the same mind. This has been a huge shock to me. There are a good many of my friends that I would have sworn were more open minded than this. I can only surmise that they were influenced by the news coverage to which they were subjected. One friend in particular has truly surprised me. This individual is a deeply spiritual person. And this person said to me that there would be no justice for Caylee. The minister in me was almost knocked over. Of course we all want the guilty to be held accountable for their actions. But man's justice must quantify doubt. God's justice is perfect. These are the the cases that test our faith. Sadly, some folks have had their faith shaken. Another friend of mine asked how I would feel if it had been one of my children or grandchildren. I have lost two of my four children. I understand the loss. I recognize the precious value of children. I credit my faith with helping me cope with those tragedies. God has not let me down.
When we heard the verdict, I told my daughter that I believe that it is better for a thousand guilty people to go free than for a single innocent person to be convicted. In addition I want the police to “investigate and find the truth”. I do not like the current trend of identifying the most likely suspect and then “building a case”. Likewise, I want the prosecutors to “present real evidence”. I want it to be hard to prosecute a defendant. Many people do not recognize the damage that is done to society when an innocent person is investigated, accused, tried, convicted, jailed, or God forbid executed. The government has so much power (We will go into that another time) that the “ripples of ill will” can be cast very wide. Feelings of mistrust and paranoia can spread geometrically. When this happens the public is less likely to cooperate with law enforcement on the next case. If we want the justice system to have the public at large as a cooperative partner, we must be willing to allow them to fail sometimes. It seems to me that some in law enforcement are obsessed with “building a case”. It also seems that some prosecuting attorneys are obsessed with “putting one in the win column”. If that isn't enough, we have some judges who would rather make the law than follow it. What we need is accountability. In my lifetime I have only read of one case where a prosecuting attorney was himself prosecuted for misconduct. Law enforcement and judges seem to be immune.
So to the reporters and commentators, relax. Take a breath and try to do the best job that you can. To my dear friends, pick up your Bible, Koran or Torah and read. Let your faith support you and mitigate you sadness. God really is in your corner. To all of you, try to accept the possibility that the jury got this one right. If you can't believe that, just try to allow for the system to have failed this time. It has to fail sometimes. As hard as this is going to be to for you to accept, the cost of demanding a perfect result every time is just too high.