People are screaming all over the country. They are angry and upset that the jury in the Casey Anthony murder case made the wrong decision and that there was no justice. There is an old saying in American criminal law ‘It is better to set a thousand guilty men free than to convict just one innocent man’. This expression could be said to be the theory on which our entire system of criminal law is based.
Our system is imperfect. Innocent defendants are often convicted, and sometimes guilty people are acquitted. I do not proclaim to know whether or not Casey Anthony murdered Caylee Anthony, or whether she had anything at all do with the child’s death. However, I do know that regardless of the loud opinions of the pundits and talking heads on television, the jury in this case made the right decision. They were not convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the child was murdered or that Casey Anthony committed a murder.
The reasonable doubt standard in the American justice system simply stated requires that no reasonable person could have any reasonable doubt about the charged crime or the defendant’s guilt of committing the charged crime. It is an extremely simple yet totally complex standard the explanation of which could fill volumes of books.
The jury was composed of 12 reasonable people who listened to all of the evidence for 33 days. They formed their opinion of the evidence as a whole, without passion or prejudice and they simply were not convinced that the state of Florida proved its case…beyond a reasonable doubt.
Could another jury have convicted Casey Anthony? Certainly. Would it have been the right decision in that case? Absent bias caused by passion or prejudice…probably.
Absent a fool proof lie detector or the ability to read people’s minds to find the truth, our system is the best alternative. The imperfect reasonable doubt standard is meant to protect us all from being wrongfully convicted. It protects the person charged with speeding or running a red light the same as the person charged with murdering a young child. It is a simple yet heavy burden that should be taken as seriously by every jury as it was by the jury in the Anthony case.
Prosecutions should not lead to automatic convictions. Jurors should not assume guilt simply because the state alleges the defendant committed a crime. Witnesses sometimes lie and even more often make mistakes. Prosecutors make mistakes and sometimes over charge crimes or charge the wrong person. The only thing that protects us all from these very human attributes is that every defendant must be considered innocent until proven guilty…beyond a reasonable doubt.