“In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.”
Casey Anthony was found not guilty of 1st degree murder (premeditated), aggravated manslaughter of a child and aggravated child abuse in regards to the death of her daughter, Caylee Anthony. Casey was found guilty of providing false information to law enforcement.
The verdict came as a shock to the Prosecution and the Public as well. The Anthony family has since received death threats. The Internet is all a buzz with people talking about the similarities between this case and the OJ Simpson case and how they cannot believe that “she got away with murder.”
After all, so many people sat – day in and day out – watching the drama unfold in the courtroom. Hearing the details, seeing the evidence and coming to their own seasoned judgments as to the guilt of Casey Anthony. Many comments on the Internet point out that the jury was out of the room for what has been considered some truly revealing and potentially pivotal arguments in the case. A general feeling of a miscarriage of justice is the majority opinion of the verdict.
But is it?
There are three things that are commonly forgotten. One, that the American legal system is not about justice, but about law. Two, that Court TV is a kind of reality TV in which reality is simulated, but not entirely true. And three, when bad things happen, there is no way to undo the hurt that is done.
There are three parts to the definition of Justice.
The first is as a “principle of moral rightness; equity. Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness.” This definition holds all of our cultural, religious and emotional experiences. Experiences that are mostly subjective and rooted in the need to project black and white (orthogonal) thinking onto events in order to understand them. Doing this allows a person to regain a sense of safety and surety through that understanding. Justice, much like evil, is in the eye of the beholder. My justice is different from the justice seen by my next-door neighbor. Our sense of what is just and what is not just comes from our sense of morality, cultural mores, group identities and emotional histories.
The second part of the definition states, “The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law. The administration and procedure of law. The law is the community compromise on a standard of rightness in action that all are held accountable to, yet represents no one sub-group in the community more than another. Mind you, this is not about whether the application of the law leans more to one group within the community or another, but that it is to “with blindness” hold all to the same standards. This is why many new laws wind up in the Supreme Court. Laws are created all the time that attempt to favor one group over another.
The third part of the definition is, “Conformity to truth, fact, or sound reason.” This part of the definition means that justice with a capital “J” can only be seen when it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the part of Justice that enters a court of law.
The facts in the case are as follows – Caylee died in an unnatural manner. Her body was transported and concealed.
The sound reasoning in the case is that Casey Anthony did not react to her daughter missing the way in which one would expect a reasonable parent to react.
The truth – Casey Anthony lied to law enforcement agents about people, places and things during the period between Caylee going missing and her body being found.
That is all that the Prosecution could prove in the courtroom. By charge of the Law, juror’s must conclude that beyond a reasonable doubt Casey Anthony did, with pre-meditation, plan the murder of her daughter, commit the murder and hide the body. They could not do this, even if they may have felt in their hearts that she did, it would have been an injustice to convict her based on an emotional and subjective response to the case rather than to consider the validity of the evidence.
Which many people who watched the trial on TV cannot understand. They saw enough. But, back to the concept of Reality TV as myth, what viewers saw was a form of “court as entertainment,” a faux trial that was coexisting, perhaps overlaid is a better word, with a real trial. For ratings sake, Court TV shows all the things that the jurors don’t see because it makes for good entertainment.
What the audience forgets is that underneath the show – is reality. The jurors are removed from the room when arguments or evidence are to be presented to be ruled on whether or not they are admissible in the trail – whether or not they meet the criteria of truth, fact and sound reasoning. So, we the audience, get to see many things that are inappropriate to a trial of justice but do not separate the information out of what is legally and fairly allowed. We do not filter the entertainment from the reality. Aiding us in this delusion are the legal pundits commenting on every breath taken in the courtroom, while they may be lawyers, none of them have seen the evidence or conducted the appropriate investigations and research to have any more a learned opinion on the case than the rest of us. They are part of the audience to, but give us the illusion of being informed. They are a voice of authority that the audience allows to interpret the information seen in the show.
Any trial is not so much about the persons being tried, but about the society and community. In our courts of law, we are constantly revisiting the compromises we have agreed upon in order to preserve the relationship of the community. For this reason, sometimes obvious and heinous things go unpunished because to punish them would mean breaking a compromise to the whole that would then endanger the community. It is why so much pressure is on the Prosecution and Police to follow their strange protocols etc. and so forth, they have to prove – to the standard of the community – what has happened. They cannot, like in a therapy session, look solely for what happened in the moment and between two people.
Like it or not, “justice” has been served. The Prosecution tried their best, but in the end, there were no facts, truth or sound reason to support a guilty verdict on those charges.
And it breaks our heart for Caylee, to think the crime against her will go without justice. That the perpetrator will be free to go on living their life while Caylee’s sinks further and further into the ground. And that is painful and upsetting and yes, unjust on many levels.
Yet, why such outrageous passion over this? Why the death threats? The libelous status updates? The absolute hatred expressed towards this woman in such a public way? Why this rejection of the verdict?
Casey Anthony is seen as a monster for she is the embodiment of our own lack of emotional connection to life and lack of meaning and purpose in our lives. She has thrown in our face the shattered glass of our illusion about the black and white nature of life and our own belief in our goodness and morality. She has broken the myth of the mother/daughter bond. She has held up to the cameras a lifestyle in which “living in the present” is more valued than anything else and the kind of emotional conceit that requires. She has treated horror and trauma with a casual disregard because it didn’t really affect her. She is the American Society without its mask of sanity.
Watch closely the people you hear crying the loudest against her and you will see an interesting thing unfold. It is widely known and accepted that expressions of hate towards someone stem from fear. The idea that a mother would kill their child strikes fear in many parent’s hearts – not because it is unthinkable, but because who hasn’t had a moment when they have thought, “I wish they would just go away.”
Casey Anthony is condemned as a heartless, party animal who wanted to be rid of her daughter so she could live la Belle Vita – but who of you with children is not aware of the sacrifices that have to be made – from your life, to be there for them? And who among you has not had a moment of resentment towards your own child? Who among you has not made a choice that you know may be seen as neglectful by someone else? Our buried shames can fuel our surface reactions.
Baumeister defined evil as the willful decision to lose control. Many of us have had thoughts such as these but we have chosen to remain in control, but we never lose the awareness of the fact that we had to make a willful choice to do so. Casey Anthony strikes fear in many because she is a mirror of our own potential and that, is unacceptable to us in this day and age. We like to believe that one decides to be good once, and that is the end of that.
We like our black and white things, our boxes. We like to believe that bad people are all bad and good people are all good. But we are always in a constant motion of making choices about our actions. Our collective denial about the nature of our humanity is challenged, threatened by the Casey Anthony’s of the world. She does not even have to commit murder to do so, just to be seen acting in such a callous way in regards to a murder is enough to trigger this fear and stir up our secret shames.
Watch, as well, the people who seek to defend her, saying, “If she did it, it was because she was mentally ill or had been abused as a child.” These are more rationalizations to absolve Casey of willful choice and therefore, protect ourselves from connecting to the reality that these things are choices for us as well. Not one person worth their weight in the therapeutic industry believes that “abused children become abusers” and very few criminal acts are committed by the insane because too much planning and consideration of consequences has to occur. But these are the myths we have embraced because they allow us to remain in our fairytales, where dragons are killed by heroes and the kingdom becomes peaceful again.
Before posting or talking about the verdict, I would ask you to do one thing, and that is to consider your life. Consider your life in regards to the fact that what we first think, our first reaction to something – is usually false. It is what lies beneath that reveals our true feelings and opinions. We tend to grab for the one that can be most easily understood in black and white terms to alleviate fear and stave off our own painful memories of shame.
If you are absolutely repulsed by the verdict, ask yourself why? What is it about it that affects you? Why is it really so upsetting? What does it bring up for you? And think it through.
There are some harms in the world that once done, can never be healed or given closure. One of them is the death of a small child. Yet we constantly do a disservice to their memory by trying to capture them in little boxes and simple explanations – we say that some people are out of control and that is why they hurt them or, that God called them home, or, that something so so bad happened so that something good could come out of it. If you stop looking for definite answers to define the “why” of something unexplainable, you begin to open up to the totality of life. A wholeness that includes us all, the living and the dead, the good and the bad, and reminds us that in the end it is about being there – with all our memories and unresolved parts, all our traumas and hurts and joys. Because when we are actually in the act of being alive, we create a broader range of choices for everyone, including ourselves. The more choices we see, the less we are to pick the one that will cause suffering.
Consider your life.
Think before you speak.
Consider, especially, that your posts and statuses may be read by people who you are hurting with your hate and anger and vitriol. It may not be your intention, but when the only reminder of a child’s death surfaces in the absolute hatred inspired by the death of another – it creates a feeling of isolation in others who have lost too. It hurts those who have already been hurt. It does nothing to memorialize Caylee. Most of the loudest people now will forget her in few months when the next bit of human drama unfolds.
Honor her by becoming the kind of person that inspires others to see more choices in life. Honor her by creating a world in which harming another is unacceptable under any circumstance.
c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.