Medea at the Circus

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All Greek tragedies center on a horrific, unthinkable act. Medea killed her own children. Casey Anthony did, too. Whether you believe it was premeditated murder, accidental homicide, or gross parental negligence, there is no doubt that Caylee died at the hands of her mother’s actions. No reasonable person disputes this. That the jury found her not guilty does not indicate that she is innocent. The trial did not prove her innocence, it simply failed to prove her guilt, so while one could say, the difference makes no difference (she is walking free), I believe the distinction is everything.

Too much has been said, reported and written on the subject. I have no new facts; I didn’t want to write about this at all, but can’t seem to move onto subjects I prefer without first exorcising this one.

I admit to listening to the news each day to learn the latest as the trial progressed. I’m a “favorite listener” of Gayle King’s on XM and appreciated her daily take as a mother on the situation. I listened to Nancy Grace on a few occasions as well. And while I believed the verdict would come back “guilty,” I was not shocked when it did not. I am no cynic; I’m just analytical; I knew acquittal was a distinct possibility. I was sickened, like most, but very quickly thereafter I felt that it was better the story was done. I do believe that had the jury come back with a conviction, the ruling would have been overturned upon appeal for any number of technicalities … and at great additional cost to taxpayers. Today I’m frustrated that little jail time will be served, and then again, at least we won’t be paying her “room and board” anymore – though Floridians will be footing the bill for her security detail for some time.

So besides the obvious – Casey walks free – why are we so upset and consumed? I believe it is because on a daily basis the majority of us live our lives using simple common sense. We don’t need an exorbitant number of facts to make decisions. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck … guess what? And here common sense seems to have been lost. But for good reason.

Our founding fathers, in an effort to preserve individual rights and freedoms, required prosecution to meet burden of proof: we are innocent until proven guilty, and reasonable doubt is enough to set someone free. This was a reaction to governing bodies, which at the time had absolute power and could declare anyone guilty or innocent with no real trial whatsoever. So we created a jury of our peers, offered defense at the cost of the taxpayer and required certain standards to convict. We take these elements for granted today, and now, fittingly on the week of July 4th, we were reminded of the choice those founding fathers made: it is better to free a few guilty than to incarcerate the innocent. Freedom comes at a price, friends.

Though we can learn from the outcome this week – enact laws, as they are now doing in Caylee’s name, to protect future children – we must respect the system as a whole. What we should not do is harass any party involved in the trial; that sickens me nearly as much as the crime itself. The jurors listened to every detail presented and made the correct legal decision. The judge instructed the jury correctly. The defense did precisely what they should: shed light on the holes in the case. The prosecution hoped that despite a few missing pieces, the picture on the puzzle would still be clear, but unfortunately without being able to show when, where or how the murder took place, the holes were too large. It’s disappointing, but pretty straightforward. I admit that I tap dance for a living, I have never been an attorney – not even on TV – but even I can see how and why this outcome prevailed.

This is how the system should work. This was the design from the get-go. Years before becoming our second president, John Adams volunteered to defend the British soldiers who were on trial for murder during the Boston Massacre. He was not a popular man for doing so – some claimed it was career suicide, but it says a great deal about this underappreciated patriot that he believed so strongly in fair trials for all that he argued their case … successfully. And though in his situation he had truth on his side, he originally took the case only to ensure that if a conviction triumphed, that the prosecuting case was ironclad. Too much was at stake in the colonies and a British retaliation for an unfair trial loomed. Mr. Adams did us all a favor.

Lastly, here is what bothers me the most: Despite the comparisons to the OJ trial, the only similar aspect is that, more likely than not, two murderers walked free. But let’s be clear, The State of Florida vs. Casey Marie Anthony was no Hollywood trial. There was no televised, slow-speed chase on the 405 freeway, no celebrity (dare I say hero) turned convict, no high-paid defense team full of rhyming antics, no publicity-obsessed judge Ito, no seemingly inexperienced prosecution, no series of inexcusable mistakes by the investigation. I have the utmost respect for every player in the Florida trial, each conducting themselves with dignity and professionalism. At no time did anyone forget that the case was about the tragic, premature death of a two year old. During the Simpson trial, families of the victims fought to remind the world that this was a case about murder, not race, as Johnny Cochran wanted you to believe. His was a defense full of slight-of-hand, spin tactics: an anything-goes circus to get his client off. He successfully distracted the jury and world – no John Adams, he.

So what do we take from this? Medea at least admitted to her act. Casey walks free egging on the press with comments about wanting more children. Nauseating, but there are no happy lives for the people in these dramas. Not for Medea, nor OJ, nor I am guessing Casey Anthony. I am troubled that this narcissistic, arrogant, dim-witted woman somehow got away with a very sloppy murder, but I take solace that she will be wearing a deserved scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life for this deed, despite the verdict. I am saddened that she is probably not well adjusted, nor astute enough to truly understand that branding, but had she that kind of insight, she would also likely have a beautiful, nearly-6-year old by her side, soaking in the summer sun before starting kindergarten in the fall.

Tragedy.

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