After the news of a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict in the Casey Anthony case, we’ve been listening to the strong, steady drumbeat of what HuffPost writer Thane Rosenbaum calls “an angry Greek chorus” against the verdict, and even against the justice system itself.

There is a disconnect between the people and the system that has become starkly rendered after this verdict.

Casey Anthony was accused of murdering her 2 year-old daughter Caylee and then lying to cover it up. In the end, the prosecution’s case centered on the coverup rather than the actual murder, because they couldn’t prove the murder. The obviousness with which it occurs to most observers that Casey had something to do with the death of her daughter leads people to what seems like a common-sense thought: she did it.

But such evidence was not presented. Such a thing was not proven, certainly not beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. And the system demands this highest standard of proof from the prosecutors because the consequences of being convicted of such a thing are so severe; death, in this case. If you’re going to insist on ‘killing people back’ for murder, you better be damned certain they did it (beyond every reasonable doubt, in fact). It is better to free a guilty person than to convict – and possibly execute – an innocent person.

The jury, therefore, made the right decision, in my opinion.

But most people don’t think so. An angry mob met outside to protest the verdict. At least one juror has received credible threats on their life. Chief cheerleader of the lynchings: the satanic Nancy Grace, who took to the air with impassioned outrage. Grace is a former prosecutor who couldn’t respect the law during her years practicing it, and can’t respect it now. I wonder if Nancy Grace ever thinks anybody is innocent of anything. She tried and convicted the Duke lacrosse team of rape, before those charges were debunked. She was wrong about who had kidnapped Elizabeth Smart. She’s quantifiably malicious.

Celebrities took to Twitter, saying, “The verdict is revolting” (Jessica Alba); “Disgusting” (Fred Savage); “A disgrace” (Sharon Osbourne); “I can’t say this is the first time Florida screwed up on an important vote” (Joy Behar).

All this makes me wonder if they know something I don’t. Do they claim to have some evidence than wasn’t presented at trial? Have they the missing DNA, a witness who saw the murder, a murder weapon? Can they prove how Caylee died and what happened to her? If so, why weren’t they witnesses for the prosecution?

And if not, do they think the justice system should be changed so that proof is not required to convict someone of murder?

It’s a conspicuous reality that many people simply don’t understand our justice system, or why it demands more than circumstantial evidence of someone’s guilt.

There are possibilities other than murder in the Casey Anthony case that cannot logically be ruled out, based on the evidence. The defense contended that Caylee died in the family pool and that a dysfunctional, abusive family hid the fact out of fear of what the law would do about their negligence to properly care for the child. Some other accident may have been the cause of this tragedy. Perhaps Casey is covering for a third party who did do it.

We don’t know.

The only thing we do know is that the evidence doesn’t come close to showing that Casey Anthony murdered her child. That’s what the jury decided in the verdict I advocated but didn’t expect. In this case, the jury was doing something unusual for a jury: they were refusing to let their emotions overrule the law’s requirement for evidence.

Let’s think about these jurors for a second. By the time the case went to trial, this was already one of the biggest news stories in the nation. They were under an intense amount of pressure. A hoard of millions of angry people wanted Casey’s blood. Yet despite this, the jury went into that room and decided to follow strictly the words of the law and the words of the judge in the case, making the evidence itself their only standard.

(The jury instructions in the case call for the following deliberations: “To prove the crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1. Caylee Marie Anthony is dead. 2. The death was caused by the criminal act of Casey Marie Anthony. 3. There was a premeditated killing of Caylee Marie Anthony.)

I believe we should be grateful for a jury sensible enough not to send a woman to death for anything less than absolute certainty of her guilt. Thank God it isn’t the bloodthirsty, baying mob in charge of your conviction, or mine. Thank God we demand proof, beyond and to the absolute exclusion of every single reasonable doubt. For the justice system that most people are denouncing this week, I am grateful.

‘But she was involved somehow!’ I agree. That doesn’t mean she murdered her child. Murder is the killing of another person with malice aforethought. The state didn’t prove malice (motive) or aforethought (premeditation). We can’t find her guilty of ‘Being Involved Somehow in the First Degree.’

‘But she was partying afterwards!’ Yes. I have a grief counselor on my radio show today who believes Casey’s behavior to be entirely consistent with a grieving mother. But even if you don’t think so, ‘Second degree Partying in Difficult Times’ is not a crime.

Neither is ‘Aggravated Googling of a Suspicious Keyword’ (‘chloroform’, which defense attorney Jose Baez compellingly explained as having been in response to a humorous Myspace posting from a friend). Neither is ‘Being a Slut in the First Degree.’

Perhaps you, dear reader who disagrees with the verdict, have seen some incriminating evidence not presented at this trial? Or perhaps you would like to change the standard of the law so that someone can be convicted without the actual proof of their having done it?

Rosenbaum asked the following question on behalf of the livid public: “Are jurors simply stupid, or does something happen during legal trials that temporarily disables common sense and critical thought?”

On the contrary, what happens during legal trials engages critical thought, in some people for the very first time. No longer is it acceptable to convict someone in our minds on the basis of speculation, feelings, emotions, prejudice, or instinct. No longer can we play judge, jury and executioner in the obnoxious, moralizing way of the hoards. Inside those courtroom doors, only logic, evidence, and law are permitted. And some day you or I may be glad of that.

Far from harming our faith in the justice system, this verdict is a heartening, and even surprising, sign that the system occasionally works as intended.


Alan Dershowitz, Wall Street Journal, agrees here. John Cloud, TIME magazine, agrees here.