I hope everyone in America had a wonderful 4th of July celebration. Please forgive me while I get on my soapbox and do some of that chatting that I advertise in my blog title. I especially apologize to visitors from other countries.
Some of you realize that, in my job, I am often involved with the court system. My contacts with our American court system have taught me that it is far from perfect. I know that innocent people are sent to prison, and I know that guilty people are acquitted. The people who are deciding the verdict are normal and human ~ they are people like you and me. Jurors do make mistakes, but most of the time, these mistakes are made by good, honest people, who are performing their duty to the best of their ability.
I will admit that I have not closely followed the “Casey Anthony” trial. This post is not about the guilt or innocence of Casey Anthony. However, I did not have to follow the trial to know that I am proud of the jury that returned the verdicts in this case! I’m sure it would have been much easier for those jurors to return with a guilty verdict. There could not be a more horrifying crime than the murder of a child. Anyone would feel that someone should be severely punished for this crime.
I cannot imagine how difficult it is to serve on a jury. Before a jury deliberates, the judge reads instructions from our laws. We’ve all heard the terms “innocent until proven guilty, and “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but have you ever thought of having to actually apply those terms to a decision as grave as life or death? Had I not been exposed to the law, through my job, I’m sure I’d go into the jury box thinking that, of course the accused is guilty. Why else would the police charge them? If I were listening to testimony about something the accused had done that I didn’t think was moral or decent, I’d probably form an opinion that they must be guilty. I wonder if I would then be able to go to the jury room, remembering the laws that require jurors to begin with the assumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty and to remember that if I have a reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused, I will need to vote for acquittal, regardless of what other bad things I heard about the accused during the trial?
I’ve seen it go the opposite way too many times. An innocent person is sent to prison, because a horrible crime has occurred, and a jury feels that they have the responsibility to punish someone for the crime. The only person available for them to punish is the defendant, and during the trial they learned things about the defendant that made them not like him/her very much. I have seen innocent people convicted when there is absolutely no evidence that they committed the crime. I have heard interviews of jurors after a trial, when it was revealed that in the jury room one juror (with a good imagination) made up a plausible story of how the accused had committed the crime, and the other jurors agreed that it could have happened that way, in spite of the fact that the story had nothing to do with any evidence presented at trial. The compulsion to find the accused guilty is so strong that jurors easily go along with a strong “made-up” story about what could have happened, as opposed to reaching a decision based on the evidence presented during the trial.
The few snippets I saw on the news reports of this trial led me to believe that the defendant would be found guilty. When I heard the verdict, I immediately thought of how difficult it must have been for this group of jurors to follow the law instead of their instincts. Most of us have done something in our lives that we are not proud of. I would hate to think that a jury of my peers would find me guilty of a crime, based on something I had done which had nothing to do with the crime. If I’m being tried for a crime, I hope the jury would be basing their decision on proof presented at the trial, as opposed to something I had done that they (the jurors) thought was a bad thing to do. I believe that there are probably more innocent people imprisoned than there are guilty people acquitted, and I want to congratulate that Florida jury for their courage and wisdom in following the Judge’s instructions. It’s not a perfect legal system, but it is the legal system these jurors had to work with, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for any of them.
God Bless America!
07/07/11~EDITED TO ADD: I wrote this several days ago, but waited to publish it, in the hope that I would decide to delete it. Sorry, I couldn’t do it. I think I must have a death wish for this blog!
Thank you for your visit. I apologize for my soapbox stand, and I promise I won’t get on my soapbox often.