Troy Kirby

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Casey Anthony's turn at the public circus


The public’s obsession with the Casey Anthony Trial is nothing new. In fact, it is so old hat that it no longer shocks anyone to see full trials displayed on television for public consumption. It is the best type of reality television show; unscripted yet with an expiration date and easily forgettable regardless of the lives it touches forever. Tort reform may be a idealized notion of those in Congress, but at the base level of the average Joe, there is nothing enjoyed more than a good mash-up of ligation. The majority of the television series dramas throughout history have been legal dramas whether it be in the court room or on the police beat. Not to mention the public carnivals of half hour small claim judge shows or public carnival trials referred to as “talk shows” with an audience who actively shouts at the “guests” on stage.
The latest public hubris is its focus on the Casey Anthony Trial. And it is with good reason. The public, not just the American public, but those throughout the globe enjoy the idea of a good whodunit. Even when the defense does not hold up to several different timelines of events or with a prosecution appearing use the television media in order to convict a defendant. The truth is not important with the viewing public. Mainly because they understand from the outset that no matter what happens, justice will not be served.
That may sound harsh for someone who believes in the blindness of justice. But then again, if justice is blind, how can they see through lies to the truth. Our appetite for criminal proceedings has never faltered. Hell, television broadcast the proceedings in the custody case for Anna Nicole Smith’s child. Specifically because they knew that the public would watch. Even the judge in the case attempted to garner as much fame as possible with his slow delay tactics on the bench. In a murder case, everyone appears ready to cash in, become a quasi-celebrity, and hope that their fifteen minutes of fame will stretch out to twenty, thirty or a full-hour of Kim Kardashian fame.
At the heart of this story is still the face that a child is murdered. Caylee Anthony may have not had a long life in terms of years (less than three) but she will live on in some hyperbole created by her death. JonBenet Ramsey was six when she was slaughtered Dec. 25, 1996. And every media outlet just knew that the parents were dead-to-rights guilty. JonBenet’s legacy is at least seventeen whodunit true crime books, a television movie, thousands of hours of TruTv and a Dominick Dunne expose. That being said, it was considered shocking by the American and International public that the parents were not convicted or even tried for the crimes. It was also shocking when the family was exonerated July 9, 2008 based on D.N.A. testing.
The smoking gun in every high profile case is D.N.A. testing. It has been pushed as the sole arbiter of whether or not a person is guilty or innocent, is a by-product of our C.S.I. obsession. If the prosecution does not have the D.N.A. evidence, a jury may be less swayed toward conviction. Eye witnesses and other evidence may falter, but not D.N.A. evidence. In Casey Anthony’s case, “hair banding” is a new form of scientific proof.
The trial has become the media circus that the public craves. A prosecution which initially had offered a limited immunity deal to Casey Anthony. Two defense attorneys recusing themselves citing travel costs as a barrier to represent Anthony. The father, George, accused to sexual molestation, accused of helping cover up the body of Caylee. George then suggesting, in court, that he smelled decomposition from Casey’s car from “three feet away” yet also bailed her out after she was arrested for a fourth time. The brother also accused to sexual molestation and perhaps of fathering Caylee.
The media circus swirls further with the public. Some allegedly yelling “baby killer” outside of George’s house, causing him to go to a hotel to send notes threatening suicide. The parents’ attorney recusing himself from the case after allegedly receiving special privileges reviewing court records. Diary notes from Casey Anthony herself which could either be taken out of context or as a smoking gun admission of guilt. Civil lawsuit claims by an alleged babysitter named “Zanny” who claims that she never met Casey, but whom Casey told police had babysat Caylee the last day of her life.
All of this stops at the media’s doorstep. Regardless of guilt or innocence, the trial itself is a judgment on quick-to-convict public. Three Duke Lacrosse players were accused of raping a stripper on March 13, 2006. The public rushed to judgment on those defendants. They were expelled from Duke, after one professor allegedly failed one of the defendants over his “guilt” in the case. The alleged victim was not named but the defendants were. The New York Times did several investigative pieces which convicted the trio of defendants in the media.
Then Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong ran his re-election platform on a conviction of the three defendants, hiring a notoriously bad criminal chief investigator who had seven formal inquiries performed because of his conduct and was repremanded by the state commission in 1997. The prosecution for the case attempted every tactic possible for a conviction. Allegedly intimidating a black taxi driver with a two-and-a-half year old shoplifting charge, with expressed purpose of getting him to recant a solid alibi for one of the defendants. The Black Panthers held a protest on Duke’s campus May 1, 2006 over the rape, which was found to be false. The sexual assault claimant Crystal Gail Magnum was allowed to act as a false witness in the events. And the public allowed this until Attorney General Roy Cooper exonerated the three defendants.
But that is the problem with criminal certainty in the public’s hands. Most have a passive indifference to facts. They enjoy the salacious tidbits of the trial; sexual accusations, larceny, lunacy, but rarely have the stomach for the full case. Whether Casey Anthony is guilty or not, the people who are standing in line for hours on end to sit in the court room as an audience have already made their mind up. Because they just know what the truth is. But, as history shows us, the victims of the case rarely receive justice. JonBenet and Caylee are still deceased. The Duke Lacrosse trio still walk with stained accusations of their character. And the American public moves onto the next trial, the next obsession, hoping to solve whodunit in a thirty-minute attention span.

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