The Jurors' New Clothes

If an individual is given a position of authority based on some quality other than merit, that individual will tend to wield power in an arbitrary and damaging way.  Take twelve random people and expect them to make a sound judgment in a case that has garnered as much attention as any since O.J., and apparently, they won't do it. While admittedly speculative, there are several possibilities as to why the Casey Anthony jury ruled as they did.

The jury was warned by the defense counsel not to make a decision based on emotion -- the emotion of anger would presumably have biased the jury towards a guilty verdict.  Accordingly, in the minds of the jury, finding Casey Anthony not-guilty amounted to making an unemotional, and therefore intelligent decision.  "Everybody agreed if we were going fully on feelings and emotions, she was done...I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do," said one juror anonymously (http://am.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/08/casey-anthony-release-now-july-17th-and-another-juror-speaks-out/).  Because they went in the direction opposite their gut-feeling, opposite to their emotions (even opposite common sense, I would argue), the jurors felt secure they were making a technical, legally correct decision.

What the jurors failed to realize is that a decision can be both emotionally satisfying and rational.  Feelings can cloud one's judgment at times, but feelings and facts are not mutually exclusive.  Sometimes rational faculties lag behind an emotional response, but that does not mean that one will contradict the other. 

There is a fraudulent intellectualism in dissent; or being a contrarian just for the sake of disagreeing.  Reaching a counterintuitive decision on this case gives one the false guise of legal deep consideration -- the masses cannot understand the subtlety of your thought process.  This was the posture of many of the talking heads (more on them below) who went on TV and mystifyingly declared the evidence flimsy.  These declarations defied common sense, and the jurors' thought processes will also be revealed as transparently misguided.  I believe that as the jurors open themselves up to media scrutiny, the emperor will have no clothes, and no brain either. 

Cheney Mason, defense attorney for Ms. Anthony, lectured the media on their supposedly biased and reckless coverage of the trial: "I hope this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years."   Exactly what would that lesson have been?  That it is surprisingly easy to get away with murder?  Rather, people such as Mason would have you believe that this case is like a parable; the lesson we should learn is to withhold judgment, because, of course, it's bad to judge people.  He went on to impugn "incompetent talking heads."   I would submit that the major incompetence was on the part of the jury.  The media shouldn't be blamed for reporting on a case that the American people were interested in, and providing legal analysis for an audience otherwise unschooled in such matters. As Bernie Goldberg observed on The O'Reilly Factor on Tuesday, "the problem is with the jury. Not so much with the talking heads. The problem is that the jury, as I say, didn't have a modicum of common sense."  

Talking heads have taken a lot of heat in the wake of this fiasco, undeservedly so.  The existence of 24-7 cable news has been denounced to the point where the denouncement itself has become cliché.  But having constant argumentation about political and social issues day and night isn't necessarily a harmful thing to society.  I watch a fair amount of cable news; and along with the consumption of other media sources, I feel none the worse for it.  If you're not interested, don't tune in.  The conventional wisdom is that the "talking heads" have been exposed as pernicious and myopic because they persecuted Casey Anthony and convicted her before she had a fair trial; however, this line of thinking presupposes that the jury's decision was logical, or just.  Yes, technically their decision is a product of our justice system; but was it just, in the pure sense of the word? 

Those who, for whatever reason, resented lawyers going on TV and weighing in on the case in a way that implicated Casey Anthony as the murderer now think they have a chance to say "I told you so."  They have no right to such gloating or chastising.  Because the jury said there was not enough evidence, does that mean there wasn't?  If the jury said the sky wasn't blue, would that make it so?  And should those who claimed the sky was blue on Fox News now apologize? 

If an individual is given a position of authority based on some quality other than merit, that individual will tend to wield power in an arbitrary and damaging way.  Take twelve random people and expect them to make a sound judgment in a case that has garnered as much attention as any since O.J., and apparently, they won't do it. While admittedly speculative, there are several possibilities as to why the Casey Anthony jury ruled as they did.

The jury was warned by the defense counsel not to make a decision based on emotion -- the emotion of anger would presumably have biased the jury towards a guilty verdict.  Accordingly, in the minds of the jury, finding Casey Anthony not-guilty amounted to making an unemotional, and therefore intelligent decision.  "Everybody agreed if we were going fully on feelings and emotions, she was done...I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do," said one juror anonymously (http://am.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/08/casey-anthony-release-now-july-17th-and-another-juror-speaks-out/).  Because they went in the direction opposite their gut-feeling, opposite to their emotions (even opposite common sense, I would argue), the jurors felt secure they were making a technical, legally correct decision.

What the jurors failed to realize is that a decision can be both emotionally satisfying and rational.  Feelings can cloud one's judgment at times, but feelings and facts are not mutually exclusive.  Sometimes rational faculties lag behind an emotional response, but that does not mean that one will contradict the other. 

There is a fraudulent intellectualism in dissent; or being a contrarian just for the sake of disagreeing.  Reaching a counterintuitive decision on this case gives one the false guise of legal deep consideration -- the masses cannot understand the subtlety of your thought process.  This was the posture of many of the talking heads (more on them below) who went on TV and mystifyingly declared the evidence flimsy.  These declarations defied common sense, and the jurors' thought processes will also be revealed as transparently misguided.  I believe that as the jurors open themselves up to media scrutiny, the emperor will have no clothes, and no brain either. 

Cheney Mason, defense attorney for Ms. Anthony, lectured the media on their supposedly biased and reckless coverage of the trial: "I hope this is a lesson to those of you having indulged in media assassination for three years."   Exactly what would that lesson have been?  That it is surprisingly easy to get away with murder?  Rather, people such as Mason would have you believe that this case is like a parable; the lesson we should learn is to withhold judgment, because, of course, it's bad to judge people.  He went on to impugn "incompetent talking heads."   I would submit that the major incompetence was on the part of the jury.  The media shouldn't be blamed for reporting on a case that the American people were interested in, and providing legal analysis for an audience otherwise unschooled in such matters. As Bernie Goldberg observed on The O'Reilly Factor on Tuesday, "the problem is with the jury. Not so much with the talking heads. The problem is that the jury, as I say, didn't have a modicum of common sense."  

Talking heads have taken a lot of heat in the wake of this fiasco, undeservedly so.  The existence of 24-7 cable news has been denounced to the point where the denouncement itself has become cliché.  But having constant argumentation about political and social issues day and night isn't necessarily a harmful thing to society.  I watch a fair amount of cable news; and along with the consumption of other media sources, I feel none the worse for it.  If you're not interested, don't tune in.  The conventional wisdom is that the "talking heads" have been exposed as pernicious and myopic because they persecuted Casey Anthony and convicted her before she had a fair trial; however, this line of thinking presupposes that the jury's decision was logical, or just.  Yes, technically their decision is a product of our justice system; but was it just, in the pure sense of the word? 

Those who, for whatever reason, resented lawyers going on TV and weighing in on the case in a way that implicated Casey Anthony as the murderer now think they have a chance to say "I told you so."  They have no right to such gloating or chastising.  Because the jury said there was not enough evidence, does that mean there wasn't?  If the jury said the sky wasn't blue, would that make it so?  And should those who claimed the sky was blue on Fox News now apologize? 

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