Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The quest for truth within the bounds of the law"

Doug Mataconis has a non-hysterical take on the Casey Anthony verdict (h/t E.D. Kain)

First of all, it’s worth reminding everyone that the standard here is that it’s the state’s obligation to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an incredibly high standard. It means that someone who actually committed a crime could go free if the evidence presented to the jury suggests that there’s another reasonable interpretation of what happened, or if the state isn’t able to produce sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, being found “not guilty” doesn’t mean the Defendant didn’t do it, but it does mean it couldn’t be proven within the bounds of the law, and it reflects the value that we’ve placed on ensuring that only someone who is assuredly guilty goes to prison (or gets executed). As the old saying goes, it’s better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man goes to prison.

Second, the criminal justice system is about a quest for the truth within the bounds of the law, not a quest for “justice” for the victim. That means, for example, that evidence that doesn’t meet the applicable evidentiary standard won’t get before the jury, that statements the Defendant made to the police while in custody but without being advised of their rights will be excluded, and that protection of the Defendants constitutional rights will bar the introduction of illegally seized or unreliable evidence. Some of that evidence might arguably to a quest for “justice,” but it’s not relevant to a quest for truth within the bounds of the law. If you’re looking for “justice” for the victim, you’ll have to search somewhere else because it won’t come from a courtroom.

Finally, I’ll just add that this case struck me as yet another example of how the media can pervert the public perception of the justice system. For three years, the cable networks, especially people like Nancy Grace, covered this case like it was the biggest story ever and had essentially already tried and convicted Casey Anthony even before the trial started. It wouldn’t surprise me if people who spent their time watching such stuff are now sitting around wondering what the heck happened and how this jury could let the “Tot Mom” go free when it’s so clear that she killed her baby. Of course, people don’t get tried and convicted in on Headline News, they get tried in a Court of Law, where they have rights and where the state has to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The people who have spent the last three years thinking they “know” Casey Anthony is guilty, don’t really know anything.

I'll only add that being on vacation last week, I happened upon a lot of the Anthony trial coverage, and was sightseeing but listening on the radio when the verdict came in, and I can report that the cable TV station HLN, and its leading prime-time anchor, Nancy Grace, were a disgrace. Hour after hour of HLN programming consists of former prosecutors turned cable hosts shouting over guests and other former prosecutor "analysts". Fox news may have very little balance. In the Anthony trial coverage, HLN had none.

Sayeth the good Roger Ailes:

While the Fox News Channel is consistently loathsome, it has been surpassed in loathsomeness by CNN Headline News. America now has a cable television network dedicated to villifying -- dehumanizing -- a single human being. Even the Christian channels don't spend as much time bashing Satan.

The murder of a child is a terrible crime, which is why we have courts, and prisons. But justice and demented bloodlust are not the same things. And HLN has never concerned itself with "Justice for Caylee," as it chyrons and wig-wearing freak-hosts proclaim. Only with "Hating for Ratings."

h/t James Wolcott

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