As I’m sure all of you know, the Casey Anthony murder trial is over. The jury found her not guilty of the most severe charges (first degree murder, manslaughter, and child abuse).
Many were surprised by this verdict. But it doesn’t matter what “many” think, does it? It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what my friend thinks. It doesn’t matter what the man down the street thinks. It’s all up to the jury.
The jury was presented a lot of information. A lot of what they heard was circumstantial evidence that certainly didn’t make Casey Anthony look good. In fact, many people thought it all made her look pretty damn guilty. But the jury decided that they couldn’t prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence the verdict. Maybe it was fair. Maybe it wasn’t.
Many criticized the judicial system because of the jury’s decision. I’m not going to say what my opinion over the verdict is. That’s not the main point of today’s post. However, regardless of my feelings over it, I do think that our judicial system needs to be revised.
It’s very difficult to come up with a perfect court system that ensures justice is served 100% of the time, and I aware we will never have the “perfect system”. But, I do think significant improvements could be made.
One issue is overcrowding in prisons, and the fact that many of the inmates are incarcerated for non-violent crimes such as drug-related crimes. Another issue, and perhaps more serious issue, is wrongful convictions.
According to an article put out by Ohio State University, about 10,000 people in the United States are wrongfully convicted each year. That’s a very small percentage, you may say. But no matter how small the percentage, it’s still not right. The most common reason for these wrongful convictions is eyewitness misidentification.
Take a moment to this about that – how incredibly awful it must be to be put in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. Watch this CNN clip in which Larry King talks to a few wrongfully convicted men and founders of the “Innocence Project“: CNN Official Interview: Wrongfully convicted men talk w/ Larry King
The overwhelming response to how they got through? Their faith and the belief that the truth would ultimately prevail. Now I’m sure those two things gave them strength. But let’s be real…they went through hell.
Also, not everyone wrongfully convicted of a crime is as lucky as they are. Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted of setting his house on fire which killed his 3 young daughters. He was executed in Texas in 2004. His last words before receiving the lethal injection were:
“The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God’s dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne”
So are lawyers part of the problem when it comes to wrongful convictions? Or are they the only positive thing our judicial system has and it’s other aspects that need to be changed? I attended a law conference last October and one speaker addressed exactly that. The speaker, Alexandra Lahav, said that lawyers are one of two things. Perhaps they provide justice where there would be none. OR perhaps they allow the system to “float”. In other words, they create the veneer of justice so that nobody feels the need to reform the system. Personally, I think it’s a little bit of both, but I am not going to claim to be any kind of expert on the topic. I certainly won’t attempt to answer it in this post. It is something to think about, though.
Another question to be asked is how wrongful convictions, especially ones that lead to executions like in the case of Willingham, factor into the debate over the death penalty?
The Ohio State University article that I mentioned above stated that:
“Surveys have shown that 85 percent of Americans favor capital punishment. But if you change the phrasing of the question to: ‘In light of the possibility of error, would you favor execution or life in prison without parole?’ you find a dramatic drop in the number of people who favor capital punishment”
How do I feel about the death penalty? Well…that’s a post for another day 🙂