Some wise words from defence attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz, in response to the outrage over the Casey Anthony verdict:
This case [is] about seeking justice for Caylee . . .” So argued the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony murder case. He was wrong, and the jury understood that.
A criminal trial is never about seeking justice for the victim. If it were, there could be only one verdict: guilty. That’s because only one person is on trial in a criminal case, and if that one person is acquitted, then by definition there can be no justice for the victim in that trial.
A criminal trial is neither a whodunit nor a multiple choice test. It is not even a criminal investigation to determine who among various possible suspects might be responsible for a terrible tragedy. In a murder trial, the state, with all of its power, accuses an individual of being the perpetrator of a dastardly act against a victim. The state must prove that accusation by admissible evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even if it is “likely” or “probable” that a defendant committed the murder, he must be acquitted, because neither likely nor probable satisfies the daunting standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, a legally proper result—acquittal in such a case—may not be the same as a morally just result. In such a case, justice has not been done to the victim, but the law has prevailed.
The verdict in the Casey Anthony case reflected the lack of forensic evidence and heavy reliance on circumstantial inferences. There was no evidence of a cause of death, the time of death, or the circumstances surrounding the actual death of this young girl. There was sufficient circumstantial evidence from which the jury could have inferred homicide. But a reasonable jury could also have rejected that conclusion, as this jury apparently did. There are hundreds of defendants now in prison, some even on death row, based on less persuasive evidence than was presented in this case.
Update: more on the ironically-monikered Grace, including some damning commentary on her record as a prosecutor, from Stephen Bainbridge.