Thursday, July 7, 2011

American Jurisprudence

Well, the Casey Anthony verdict is in. I first detected that fact when I saw a blistering barrage of cries of FOUL PLAY on Facebook. I know, I know why do you waste your time on Facebook? I really don't spend a lot of time on it because most of the traffic there begins with " Sally done clobbered herself a gopher out in the pea patch." But there is the occassional declarative statement that is pithy and borderline meaningful. I also sometimes find pictures of friends and family that I enjoy perusing.

The facts and whys and wherefores of the case are deplorable. Little Caylee Anthony's death goes unsolved and justice seems to have slipped away. The verdict replays American sentiments at the OJ Simpson verdict. I still remember the collective gasp that OJ's acquital brought onto America. What was that twenty years ago? I still remember the CNN replays of Johnny Cochran's, " If it don't fit, you must acquit !" I suppose that in the case of the prosecutorial team, they just flat out did not present evidence that led the jury to render a verdict that left reasonable doubt in the rear view mirror. Beyond a reasonable doubt !!

Have you ever served on a jury? I have been the victim, uh, er...........I mean the chosen citizen charged with rendering a verdict on whether someone committed a crime or not, on four occassions. There is a lot of focus given to the fact that the prosecution and evidence must present a case that the accused is guilty " beyond a reasonable doubt." That means if there is one little whit inside you that is not convinced that the accused is guilty, it is your honor-bound duty to render a verdict of not guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is what makes our judicial system stand muster.

This example does not stand as a reasonable comparable to the Anthony case. I will offer it just because it makes the case for what a state attorney must do to bring the guilty verdict. I was called to serve on a jury about 25 years ago. I was one of 6 jurists empanelled to determine the guilt of 2 FAMU football players who had switched the labels between a six-pack of Heinekens and a six-pack of Budweiser. The difference was 85 cents. Warehouse Foods convinced the state of Florida to go to the time and expense of trying these kids on theft charges to set a standard. I suppose they had reached the threshold of tolerance in a flurry of shop lifting in their store.

I and 5 others took two days to listen to the state make its case. We heard from the arresting officer, the store manager and countless other people who had seen these two thirsty young men do what the state was trying them on. At the end of the second day the defense attorney, Roosevelte Wilson, in his concluding defense argument, asked the state to produce the evidence. The judge then turned to the state's attorney and asked for them to produce the evidence. The state admitted that they were unable to produce the evidence. It had been removed from the evidence room by a thirsty bailiff or trustee of the sheriff's office and been consumed. The judge pounded his gavel and said " Since the state of Florida cannot produce the evidence then this case is dismissed." The jubilant accused and their defense attorney almost skipped out of the room.

I and my fellow jurors walked away scratching our heads pondering how a judicial system could allow such a waste of our time, courtroom time not to mention the cost to the court in such a case. The state's attorney must have known that the evidence was missing all along. Such is the state of affairs with our judical system.

Like it or not, our system bears the burden of proving guilt beyond any iota of doubt. It is far better for us to err on the side of a guilty person being freed on occassion than allowing an innocent person to lose their freedom or lose their life. Such is the system we live under. Less civilized countries presume your guilt. They then lop off your hands or your head sometimes on the weight of very flimsy evidence. Pardon me but I like our system better.

No comments: