Wednesday, July 6, 2011

She Got Away With It?

Like most of you, I was shocked by yesterday's verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. First I thought it was impossible, then I was angry at the jury for letting us all down, then I just felt sad for poor little Caylee, whose death will likely go unavenged as her mother becomes the focus of our collective attention. It was quite the range of emotions, made more acute by my own two-year-old running around the house, making noise and being adorably irritating.

When the emotions receded, I started thinking. What, exactly, did Ms.Anthony get away with? Murder? Maybe. But maybe not. There is plenty of evidence to suggest she was at least complicit in her daughter's death, and she for sure lied her ass off when people came looking for the little girl. But the evidence against her was just too thin, and I don't blame the jurors for not wanting to go ahead with a conviction that would probably send Casey to an early death. Unlike the jurors, however, a lot of people are absolutely certain that Casey Anthony is guilty, guilty, guilty.

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has nightmares that their child is missing. I wake up from these dreams frantic, out-of-breath, and relieved to be back in mundane reality. Not knowing where Han is, whether he's hungry, or scared, or crying out for me--this would be unbearable. I have profound sympathy for parents who find themselves in this position in real life, who don't get to wake up from their own nightmare and may have to live with the agonizing uncertainty for the rest of their lives.

Casey Anthony, apparently, had a very different reaction: she just didn't give a shit. She went out partying while her baby was missing (maybe even driving around with her daughter's body in the trunk), got a tattoo to celebrate her awesome life, and actively lied to those attempting to locate Caylee. Maybe that's because she did it herself, or knew that someone else had done it. Or maybe she just shrugged it off because it didn't seem important. This is the behavior that has so many people convinced of her guilt. How could anyone be so callous and unfeeling, especially toward their own child?  In the minds of many, any woman who doesn't love her own child is a monster who deserves everything bad that's coming to her. She's a psychopath, fundamentally flawed and capable of great evil without a shred of remorse.

But is being a psychopath against the law? Should those among us who are incapable of empathy or love (and, according to Jon Ronson's new book, there are a lot of those types out there) be stripped of their rights and labeled as murderers, even if the evidence leaves room for doubt? I think this would set a dangerous precedent where someone's personality alone is enough to get them convicted and sentenced to death.

I'm not saying Casey Anthony is innocent of this horrific crime. In fact, I rather suspect she had something to do with it. But she is the only one who knows for sure what happened, and she is a complete fucking liar (on this count, the jury had no doubt, reasonable or otherwise). Ultimately, the jury's verdict is irrelevant, because Casey has been tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty of being a shitty mom, which to some people is even worse then being a murderer.


  1. Maybe it's just because I hadn't been following the trial that closely, and maybe my feelings about this will change in a few more months when I'm a mother instead of a mom-to-be, but I honestly can't muster that much outrage over this verdict. From everything I've heard, the prosecution's case was weak -- as you said, all they really succeeded in proving is that Casey Anthony is a pathological liar and probably some kind of sociopath.

    But I would agree 100% that being a terrible mother shouldn't be enough to convict someone of murder. For better or for worse, I think the jury got it right in this case.

  2. I haven't followed this case either. I know this was some people's OJ trial for a new generation. But as I read I was reminded of an event a couple weeks ago. My wife was at the waterpark with our boys, and she told me that she saw an infant waling its lungs out for about 20 minutes with no mother to be found, when finally one of the lifeguards came and took it out of the intense heat into the first aid office. Eventually, the mother came back and looked confused that her child wasn't where she had left her or him. Someone told her that the baby was in the first aid office, and my wife watched as she went in, then came out with the baby, looking angry. Anyway, I don't know what was up with that, but stories like this just bug.