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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt — A Standard to Protect


Is Casey Anthony guilty of killing her child? I simply do not know. I was not privy to the evidence presented to the jury during the several weeks of trial or to the evidence not presented and held back by the prosecution and defense.

What I do know is the system worked in the Casey Anthony case.

How can I say that you ask?

Our justice system does not promise that justice will be had in every case. The system is designed in a way that a chance for justice exists only if:

  • The lawyers do their jobs to the best of their ability
  • The judge does his or her job to the best of their ability
  • The jury listens carefully to the evidence and follows the law as the judge instructs them it is; whether the jury agrees with the law or not.

Our criminal justice system is in place to protect the innocent, first, not to punish the guilty. The framers of our system of justice believed that the European approach, that you were considered guilty of a crime until YOU proved yourself innocent, was a dangerous system. They believed that system resulted in more innocent people in prison and just as many guilty people set free, than it provided for justice.

Let me suggest a scenario for your consideration of this recent verdict.

You look out your window into the house across the street. You see the man who lives there holding a gun and pointing it, presumably at someone you cannot see through the window. You hear the gun discharge. The next day, you learn that the man’s wife was shot in her house.

What can we say without any reasonable doubt about this scenario?

  • We can say the man was seen pointing a gun in the house.
  • We can say the man lives in the house.
  • We can say the man lives in the house with his wife.
  • We can say that the man’s wife was shot (having learned that from other sources).

Can we say the man shot his wife? No.

We want to conclude the man shot his wife. I mean who else could have? The man had a gun pointing at his wife and he shot her, right?

What more facts do we need?

Here are the facts. The man’s gun accidentally discharged at a wall while he was using poor judgment. The man’s wife was in another room and was unharmed by the discharge. You did not see the man leave his house to go to the store. You did not see the intruder break into the house, wrestle the gun from the man’s wife and shoot her.

So, if you examined only “your facts”, the man is guilty. The problem with “your facts” is they leave room for reasonable doubt. Under our form of justice, if I have reasonable doubt you committed a crime I must find you not guilty.

Why? Because we have a system of justice that values justice above punishment.

Our criminal justice system would rather protect an innocent person from being unfairly punished and allow a guilty person to walk free. Our system of justice strives to preserve a person’s liberty above all else.

I would rather see a guilty person released than to see YOU behind bars for the remainder of your life or put to death; accused and convicted of a crime you did not commit, but for which you “seem guilty”.

When a jury sits for weeks hearing evidence which you and I did not hear in its context. When all we receive is “reporting” from “news” agencies. When cutting edge journalism seems to come from the likes of the Nancy Grace’s of the world.

Frankly, it is more than a bit arrogant for me to second guess the judgment of reasonable doubt found by people on a jury who gave up a substantial amount of their life to carefully listen to evidence and render a verdict they knew would probably not be popular.

Did Casey Anthony commit murder? I still do not know. The jury did not find her innocent; the jury found her not guilty.

We do know that the system worked. Even if you do not like the outcome.

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