Friday, July 8, 2011

No-Case Casey

I normally try to avoid paddling about in the fetid pool that is American “justice” -- having eschewed, for instance, piling on when it comes to “O.J.”, JonBenet, and other cases whose sheer squalor would make Jerry Springer blush with shame. But I have to say, in the case of Casey Anthony, that – contrary to conventional wisdom, AKA “mob psychology” -- the prosecution simply failed to make its case. And this is just based on the most superficial reading of the non-stop bulletins that have been gushing forth for... weeks? Months? Years? Who can keep track?

Now, it is obvious that something went very wrong – a major “parenting fail” -- when it comes to Anthony and her daughter. Somewhere out there is a case of gross neglect, if nothing else. But hey, that is not as yet a capital crime – although the social work establishment would make it so. And when it comes to the defense's swimming pool argument, well fine – but why were neither of Anthony's parents called upon to testify regarding this theory? Nowhere in the news reports is there any evidence of either grandparent saying “yea” or “nay” to the swimming pool theory. And why is this? Were they not even called on to testify, and if so why? No, there are more holes in the defense than in a hunk of mouse-ravaged Swiss cheese. But guess what – unlike the situation in France, and in many other equally sorry places, the burden of proof is not on the defense! And I imagine that this, more than any other single thing, is the one remaining saving grace of the American justice system. The prosecution can gin up as many “statements” as it likes, and drive the media into a state of hysteria... but in the end, the burden of proof is theirs and no one else's. And we tend to underestimate the extent to which hysteria and mob psychology are, in fact, the main features of the justice system of most other countries – the ones that even have a functioning justice system, that is, which means a small minority of the total. In most cases, it's the mob out on the street – the potential lynch mob – that has the final say. Or, the judges are totally corrupt and under the thumb of politicians.

And this is not to say that there is nothing wrong with our system of “trial by jury”. Clearly, juries are composed of all-too-human individuals, plagued with the same flaws and foibles as the rest of us... except perhaps more so, because they don't have a good excuse for avoiding jury duty! Sometimes it seems that American juries are composed of the same people one sees wandering the streets during the day on weekdays; they have nothing better to do. But once in a while, even from that unpromising baseline, a jury comes up with the right decision, as in this case. They discerned – by whatever means – that despite all the bluster on the part of the prosecution, and all the claims based on circumstantial evidence, and very thin evidence at that – that there was insufficient evidence to convict Anthony “beyond the shadow of a doubt” -- which is the gold standard in American justice, and – as I said – a rare one at that. Most other countries rely on pure feelings and emotion, not to mention politics, in order to get “justice” done – the result of which is they have no claim to justice at all.

And then there is the question of which is worse – setting a guilty person free, or incarcerating, or even executing, an innocent. Again, our system leans toward the defendant in most cases... and yes, the result is that, on occasion, an extremely guilty person will go free. But the saving grace is the minimization, if not total elimination, of punishment of the innocent. Frankly, I would prefer the system as it stands, rather than one based on rumor, fear, and hysteria. If, for example, Anthony really is guilty – well, what then? Is she likely to “re-offend”? I mean... is any guy in his right mind going to take up with a woman accused of murdering her own child? And even if he does, is he going to take any chances on making her pregnant? The alternative is to keep her in jail for life, at an extravagant cost to the taxpayers. All I'm trying to say here is that the prospect of setting her free, even if she did the terrible deed, is not an unmitigated negativity. She will, in fact, suffer – rightly or wrongly – for a very long time. People will be keeping an eye on her. And if she should, in fact, ever bear another child, you can bet that an army of social workers will be assigned to do nothing but keep an eye on her, 24-7-365. That's the American way.

So... to sum up, for the benefit of the court... if the prosecution had had a case, they would have made it. Right? Unless they're a bunch of total incompetents. But their case had gaps, and holes, and unanswered questions... as did the defense. But again, a mediocre defense does not constitute an argument for conviction. The fact that the defense won with such a mediocre set of arguments shows us just how weak the prosecution's arguments were. And the day is long past when simple character assassination – even if justified – is enough to sway a jury. I honestly think that American juries are better than they used to be, and this is an example. Long-gone is the day when someone could be put away just because they were black, or gay – in other words, because they were the wrong kind of people. Now, we still have a huge way to go, and I'm thinking mainly of the spectacularly-failed “war on drugs”. Never has the “return on investment” of a government program been so non-existent as in this case. In fact, the ROI of the “war on drugs” has been negative – and resoundingly so. But then, one suspects that it was never really intended to succeed – rather that it was intended, like the wars we are currently engaged in, to go on forever, in which case “mission accomplished!”

But what about those vehemently protesting the verdict in the Anthony case? Obviously, their feeling is that there's something wrong with a system of “justice” that lets someone go who “obviously” did what they're accused of having done. But how did that idea get into their heads? Via the media, of course – and the media are out to make money. This fact alone should form the basis for serious skepticism... but people, perverse as they are, prefer to assume the worst. In fact, what they prefer is to assume that other people are worse off than they are, which makes them feel better. Of all the human traits, this has been among the most consistent down through the ages. And it's not even the relatively humble “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” No, these days it's more like “I'm sure glad I'm not that poor chump.” No principles... no morals... just a raw, crude, primitive model of the world by which I cannot rise unless someone else falls. But even so, this attitude has a hard time penetrating the walls of courtrooms across the land. Vengeance... the lynch mob... and all those old-time urges that made America's frontier great... these are diminishing in power. Not extinct, by any means, but not at the top of the list of motives... at least not in well-run courts.

Regrets? We should have a few. Whatever happened to Caylee should simply not happen – to anyone. As to the “why” and the “how” -- clearly these are symptoms of, at the very least, gross neglect and/or family dysfunction. Casey Anthony may, in fact, be a psychopath -- but again, that is not, per se, a capital offense. The approved solution is, of course, to put a social worker in every home – but as with evil in general, if we do not allow free will to operate, then we are not a free people. Free will means that, almost inevitably, some will choose evil, or at the very least “less than good”. And society will have to gaze upon, and grudgingly accept, the consequences. Otherwise, we have a situation “that makes martial law look like anarchy” -- to quote a memorable line from “The Manchurian Candidate”. If God chooses to create creatures with free will – i.e. us – and then chooses to allow them to exercise it, then who are we to cavil, and pass laws designed to thwart His plan? This is what it boils down to, ultimately – what it is that free will implies, and what that, in turn, demands of the rest of us. Because free will, once created, cannot be blotted out – and any attempt is bound to end in frustration (on the part of rulers) and oppression (on the part of their subjects). It really constitutes a test of tolerance and strength of character – the realization that everything cannot ever be totally controlled, and that perfect justice is an impossible goal. The totalitarian mindset rebels against this, and claims that “if only” we had more laws, and regulations, and controls... and had more citizens paid to spy on other citizens... that we would eventually have a perfect world. This is the triumph of “theory”, and theoreticians, over human nature – but this triumph can only last so long, as witness the Soviet Union, for example. And yet, even in the face of an example of that magnitude, hope springs eternal in the totalitarian heart -- “if we can just...”, etc. And it's that type of “thinker”, and theorist, and politician, that we need to get rid of – to expel them from our midst. And yet it's that type that seems to be gaining ground with each passing day, using every available crisis as a rationale – and receiving, in return, the (at least tacit) consent of the “governed”. The citizenry needs to rise up as one man and say, to hell with your “crises”! They are offenses against normalcy, and nought but an excuse for even more stringent controls and tyranny. But how many of the citizenry are willing or able to see through the scam? Precious few, I would say. And then when they turn around and realize that all their rights, their prosperity, and their future are up in smoke – what then? Well, the Regime will conveniently provide them with someone, or something, to blame it on, and the con game will continue unabated.

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