Isn't it Finally Time for Trial by Public Opinion?
After being found not guilty for the murder of her daughter, Casey Anthony is to be set free for time served on the conviction of lying to police. This has led to a flurry of protest all over the Internet from both sides of the political spectrum. This combined with the O.J. Simpson acquittal means that perhaps it is time to change the legal system. The fact that two people should get away with what is so flagrantly obviously murder demands that changes be made.
Perhaps we should consider doing away with the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. Instead we should replace those with a new amendment. This one would say, "If a preponderance of people on the Internet and television believe you to be guilty, then you will be therefore found guilty." This would put the determination of guilt and innocence squarely back with the public at large and not in those silly courtrooms with all of their evidence and whatnot.
Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? However, this is what we are seeing all over the Internet after the acquittal of Anthony. Even from sites whose membership is predominately conservative, libertarian and pro constitution, the membership seems to be willing to put the Constitution and the entire legal system aside because they just "know" the accused is guilty. On The Blaze, for example, there have been calls by commenters to change the system to be a three-judge panel appointed by the state and other calls to actually murder Casey Anthony herself. It's truly an emotional, astonishing and dangerous trend. This is exactly how a society loses its freedom and rights. All it takes for tyranny to take hold is for an opportunist in government to demand that action be taken to right some perceived wrong. Power is handed to the government to, "make it right" and we all wake up in a land with fewer rights.
When I bring this up among family and friends, they invariably ask me, "How can you think Anthony is innocent?" Unfortunately my answer just leaves them more confused as I state, "I don't know that she is or is not innocent but a jury of her peers found her not guilty and that is the way it is. In fact only Casey Anthony knows for sure but the burden of proof is upon the state to prove their case, not the other way around and for good reason."
The usual reply is, "But a child is dead, doesn't that bother you?" Of course it bothers me but that doesn't mean I am going to pound my fist on the table, shout, "Well someone must burn for this," and toss out the entire Constitution and legal process as many seem ready to do. Who am I to judge guilt and innocence? I was not sitting on that jury listening to the evidence. The final argument is usually, "Well Anthony went out partying and having sex and taking drugs, who does that when their child is dead?" Again, I stubbornly point them to the fact that I am not on the jury, it is not my place to judge fact especially from the drippings I get from a media that has shown itself to be unreliable in the first place.
The reason that we have the court system and trial by jury is to make sure that we do not face tyranny of the government or the public. In other countries you get a trial by three judges, all working for the government, and the prosecution working for the government. Sure, not many guilty people go free in that situation unless they have political connections in the government. In addition not many non-influential innocent people are acquitted either. The deck is stacked against the defendant. In other countries you are guilty until proven innocent. Again a lot of innocent people end up in jail as a result. In America, the defense need not prove their innocence but the government must prove them guilty.
Trial by public opinion is fraught with dangers. In 2006 several young men from the Duke Lacrosse team were accused of raping a young black woman and the case made national media. Pundits speculated, "evidence" was paraded about and people were furious about the guilt of the boys and the police's lack of speed in getting them arrested and convicted. Somewhat later tiny stories appeared buried in the same papers, not on the front page, noting that the accusation had been proven false. Too bad the reputation of those young men had been ruined as their names had been paraded across the front page as rapists. Had public opinion been the arbiter of justice, they would all be serving 25 to life for a crime that never happened. As it is, their reputations were irreparably damaged to such a degree that I would think you wouldn't have a hard time finding people who heard about the case and still think they are guilty.
Media coverage of trials does not adhere to the rules of evidence. That is the job of the courts in the United States of America, not me. I am not the Judge, nor on the jury and certainly not the executioner and I don't want to live in a society where the protections of the Constitution are set aside based on public opinion.
We live in perilous times, and the death of little Caylee is a tragedy. However that tragedy happens thousands of times all over the world and no one usually gives it even a passing thought. I grieve for Caylee and hope there is a heaven she is in. I also grieve for the little Chinese girls murdered so the parents could get a male child in the Chinese system. I also grieve for the little girls sold into sexual slavery, tortured and murdered in the name of Sharia law. I also grieve for the millions of children that are slaughtered by dictators all over the planet on a daily basis.
As I grieve for them, I am take comfort in the fact that in America we have a system that, for the most part, protects our little girls from such fates. That system is based on laws, not the opinions of men. Lets try to keep it that way.