Posts Tagged ‘Casey Anthony’

I was once one of two holdouts on a felony jury. In another felony trial I was among the eleven who agreed. Presentation of those trials took hours and we had to return the next day to finish hearing evidence on at least one. The witness list was in the teens in the Federal case, two or three on the other. Our deliberation took almost as long as the trial, half a day at least each time. Both were years ago, so my times aren’t exact. My point is the proportion of time hearing testimony to time deliberated was about equal. The Casey Anthony trial lasted about six weeks. The jury deliberated eleven hours.


In the trial where I was a holdout I was certain the defendant was guilty, but so much conflicting testimony and alternate theories were presented that I could not be sure. I had reasonable doubt that the crime might have been perpetrated by another. So we talked, and talked, and talked. Finally another juror recalled testimony he thought pointed undisputedly to the defendant. I had not heard that. Neither had the other holdout. We asked the court clerk to let us see the testimony, thinking someone would just read it to us. Instead the court was reconvened, we all returned to the places we had been hours before, and the clerk read the portion we asked about. We adjourned to our room, voted and delivered a unanimous decision. We had all listened, but it was so easy to miss something important. At that time no notes were allowed either. Only two of us missed the key element.


The other case was similar, except that after hours of discussion someone mentioned particular testimony. The lone holdout said she had not heard that. The courtroom was set up again and the court reporter asked to read the testimony in question. I read the defendant’s lips as he said to his attorney, “I said that?” The vote immediately after that was unanimous for guilty.


While I totally respect the Casey Anthony jury and know what a gut wrenching job they had, I have to wonder at the brevity of their deliberation. You writers out there know that you may think a story or novel complete many, many times, but a critique group or editor will dig deeper and see something you missed. For that reason, as much as I hate to criticize a jury, I am afraid they didn’t dig deeply enough. Perhaps a few more hours, or days in this case, of discussion would have satisfied many of their doubts. But what is done is done. I can tell Juror #3 wishes she might have been able to connect more dots and perhaps she could have had those twelve have had a longer discussion. But maybe not. Remember all of us heard much more than they did both on court TV when the jury was out of the room and in the three years prior.


In the elevator after a trial it is sometimes hard to suppress the tears even when you feel you have made the right decision, so I get it. The jury is to be thanked for sacrificing weeks of their lives for justice. I just hope that was the end result.

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By coincidence I have been reading “Lincoln Lawyer” between updates on the Casey Anthony trial for the death of her daughter. The fictional book has begun to feel like an overlay on the live drama on my TV.

Haller, the protagonist in the book is a defense lawyer, a jail house lawyer, if you will. He hangs around the lockup with his bail bondsman friend as those charged with crimes are brought before the judge. They have many repeat clients and it is rare to represent an innocent one. The fear Haller lives with is that he will not recognize an innocent person, cop a plea and be complicit in sending that person to prison. I won’t spoil the book, or movie, for you. Haller lives for the big money client, the “franchise”, with a case that goes to trial and generates a big income for him. He finds it.

As I switched from trial watching to reading another chapter, Haller begins to look more and more like Jose Baez, Casey Anthony’s attorney. You would think Baez would not fare well with the comparison my mind was making, but you would be wrong. I believe in our system of justice even with mistaken incarcerations coming out all too often as results of the Innocence Project, a team that works to free those wrongly convicted. Everyone in this country deserves a good defense, guilty or not. This is the heart of our justice system. Those attorneys who choose to spend their days defending the accused at the risk of burning a hole in their own souls by association with scum are doing the dirty work of our justice system. They have my gratitude.

Sure I scream at the TV when Baez puts on a client obviously slanting his testimony toward the defense, who is paying him. I cringe at some of the stretches in credulity that are presented as fact in order to create doubt in their client’s guilt. But that’s his job. As slam dunk as it looked opening day for the State, this is a circumstantial case. All Baez’s team must do is create reasonable doubt in one juror. Will they do it? And if they don’t will Baez worry that he has let an innocent woman go to jail or die? When this is over, will he be back at the lockup as another night’s suspects are paraded before a judge? Or will the Casey trial be a “franchise” in the lingo of Haller, and one that keeps on giving?

Everyone I know in the Orlando area was praying they would not end up on this jury. Everyone I know is now playing juror in their mind. It is impossible not to. But it is not up to us to decide if another person lives or dies because of the tragic death of a precious little girl. Nor do we have to hand our business card to suspect after suspect at the next bond hearing. We don’t have to live and wallow in that world because other people have chosen to. Thank God! And justice for Caylee.

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