Casey Anthony and the Death Penalty

July 10th, 2011

By Tom Carter

Death PenaltyThere’s all kinds of talk in the media and among people in general about the Casey Anthony case.  Mostly, there’s anger about the fact that she was acquitted on the charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter.  The most outraged are the TV talking heads, many of them lawyers who should have known better, who spent months waxing astute on the fact that she was clearly guilty and would get the death penalty.

The fact is, the system worked like it’s supposed to.  The only people who counted were the 12 jurors, and they decided that she wasn’t guilty by the standards of the law.  But did she, in fact, kill her daughter?  No one knows, and it isn’t likely that anyone will ever know.  If that doesn’t cause us to pause and think about the death penalty in general terms, then nothing ever will.

Visualize another outcome.  Based on the same evidence, they jury could have found her guilty of first degree murder, and she could have been sentenced to death.  In that scenario, one central question would remain — did she really kill her own child?  And once again, no one would know for sure.  Would that make any difference for those who support the death penalty?  Sadly, the answer is that it probably would not.

I’ve made it very clear here, here, here and elsewhere that I’m unalterably opposed to the death penalty.  I’ve given three reasons, any one of which is sufficient to make us stop killing our fellow citizens who have been judged to be guilty of certain crimes:

  • First, our justice system isn’t fair; basically, it’s for sale.  Defendants who have the most money and can buy the best lawyers are more likely to be acquitted, to negotiate favorable plea bargains, and to receive lesser punishments.  That’s why the poor are more likely to be executed than the rich.
  • Second, even if the influences of class and money could be eliminated, the system is run by human beings who make mistakes.  A mistaken conviction that results in the death penalty can’t be corrected if the victim is dead.  And you’re wrong if you don’t think innocent people haven’t been executed in the U.S.
  • Third, there’s a serious moral issue.  If U.S. soldiers kill prisoners of war who are not presenting a threat, they’re guilty of murder.  How, then, can police, courts, and jailers kill prisoners?  Plainly put, a supposedly civilized society has no moral justification for killing its own citizens except in response to an immediate threat against the lives of others.

So is Casey Anthony, now acquitted of first degree murder in a court of law, guilty of killing her daughter?  We don’t know.  If she had been found guilty and was now sitting on death row, we still wouldn’t know.  That we permit ourselves to be in that position is unconscionable.

I’ve quoted Sister Helen Prejean before, and I’ll do it again here:

Government … can’t be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill.


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9 Responses to “Casey Anthony and the Death Penalty”



  1. Brian |

    Tom, a few observations.

    Many of those getting the needle aren’t “our citizens.”

    Saying our justice system isn’t fair…isn’t fair. Compare it to any other justice system in the world, including the “fair” European systems where one can be prosecuted merely for speaking the truth (The Netherlands) or defending one’s home from burglars (the UK). There are even countries where, if your family doesn’t bring you food while you’re in jail, you’ll starve (Mexico).

    Even uber-liberal Thurgood Marhsall pointed out that 99% of everyone that is indicted is guilty. Imagine the degree of “unfairness” if we had a system where 1 person in 5, or 1 in 3, were indicted but weren’t actually guilty.

    I worry less about human error than I do about corruption within police departments or DA’s offices.

    You raise the moral issue of the death penalty yet give a pass to the moral issue of the indentured servitude forced upon us by an utterly corrupt tax system. That’s a non sequitur.

    Speaking of non sequiturs, Sister Helen’s objections are nothing but. There is a vastly different process for sending someone to the death chamber than there is for filling potholes or even for collecting income taxes.

    It’s the same sort of non sequitur as “if we can send a man to the moon, surely we can feed our hungry/eliminate poverty.”


  2. Z |

    Good post Tom. On the related question of why people spend so much time on death row post conviction — often, because they have situations like Anthony’s, except that they got convicted. This jury did a good job pointing out holes in evidence and yes — one doesn’t know.


  3. d |

    The problem with this case was,the jury wasn’t given an alternative,such as,negligent homicide or manslaughter,which it probably was. The prosecution made a grave erroe in this,only giving them murder 1. It was obvious to all,that she lied and knew all about what happened to her child,but it was not apparent how said child died. Poor judgement on D.A.s behalf,and a sad injustice for that poor little,innocent child. Casey got away with murder, or the knowledge and hiding evidence, of murder. the saddest part is,one day,she will have another child and may kill this one,too. Even sadder is,she will profit from the death and cover up, of her child’s death.


  4. Tom Carter |

    Actually, the jury had the options of first degree murder, aggraved child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter. The found her not guilty on all three of those charges. If they had thought the evidence supported manslaughter but not murder, they could have decided that way. The problem for the jury on all of those charges, according to interviews with some of them, was reasonable doubt about things like how did the child die and who, if anyone, was responsible for her death.

    Brian, the systems of justice in some countries are good and in others are very poor, granted. But what they all have in common is that they’re run by human beings who make mistakes, even if they aren’t corrupt. If you’re concerned about the difference between citizens and non-citizens, use the term “people.” The point remains valid. And when you say that the death penalty may be wrong, but so is the tax system, I fail to see your point.


  5. Brian |

    Tom, if it is immoral to execute a person that has been convicted by a jury of their peers, where due process was followed down to the last jot and tittle, surely it is immoral to deprive a person of property or liberty for the mere “crime” of having earned money. Further, the confiscation of the money occurs without any benefit at all of due process – no 4th amendment protection of person, papers, and effects against warrantless searches; no 5th amendment protection against self-incrimination; no 6th amendment right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers; and while the 7th amendment only speaks to civil cases, surely if an assessment is greater than $20 then we should be entitled to a trial by jury in tax cases; the indictment by grand jury is neatly avoided as well, even though the property loss is generally in the thousands of dollars.

    It gets better still. If the IRS, without having to follow a nettlesome due process, determines (without benefit of a trial, a judge, or a jury) that I am in arrears to them, they may, without any court order, garnish my wages, levy my accounts and lien my properties. It then falls upon me to prove that I am innocent, or make an arrangement to come current.

    If murder trials were conducted in the same manner that the IRS operates, I’d certainly agree with you that the execution of a death sentence is immoral.


  6. D. Dixon McClure |

    The Casey Anthony trial like the OJ trial allows the average person to actually SEE how our justice system works. Unfortunately it isn’t very much like the TV court and people fail to understand the difference…ergo they get angry when it doesn’t come out like they think it should.

    First off a trial has nothing to do with the TRUTH or with JUSTICE. It is a competition between two game masters to convince a group of lesser beings to se it THEIR way. Both sides will gladly solicit false testimony and professional witnesses will say what ever they are paid to say. The prosecution will let other criminals go free if they will say what they are told to say and a lot of convictions are gotten on the basis of jail house talk.

    If two people are involved in a crime, especially a murder, the one that actually did it will turn states evidence in a heart beat. They with the help of the DA will then send the one that while equally guilty is not the actual one that pulled the trigger off to the death house.

    Since the advent of reliable DNA testing Florida ranks number one on having people released from death row because they are innocent. How many innocent people is it OK to kill?

    The problem with the Casey Anthony case AND with the OJ trial is that because of the spot light put on it by the media, the prosecution was pushed into over prosecuting and over charging the case. Without the media coverage, most likely, there would never have been a death penalty prosecution made. In fact there probably wouldn’t have been a trial. They would have threatened a death penalty and the lawyers of Casey Anthony would have probably allowed her to plead guilty to a lesser offence. End of story…

    Instead they were kind of pushed in to a case that they didn’t have. There is NO evidence that places anyone at the scene of the crime. They don’t even know for sure what killed that poor little girl. They never placed the defendant at the scene of the crime and then DID go about proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Casey IS an amoral slut, a pathological liar and not very smart. They proved this over and over and in great detail. Sadly you can’t send someone to jail for very lone on any of these faults.

    This is NOT said in court but it IS in the mind of the jury. Murder without a death penalty must be proved beyond a REASONABLE doubt. Murder with a death penalty needs to be proved beyond a SHADDOW of a doubt. Believe me, when you go into that jury room you do NOT want to EVER find out that you killed an innocent person! If you make a mistake about it and they go to prison for life and then in 20 years get released when new evidence proves that they were innocent it is bad but to find out after they are dead is not something a normal person wants to confront.

    They only thing that they COULD have convicted her of, they didn’t prosecute her for and in that they were screwed. What IS beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the bitch sat around for 30 days or so after her baby disappeared. They prosecuted her for abuse but nobody ever said that she had harmed the little girl physically. They went out of their way to show pictures of Casey and Caylee together smiling and happy. ???????? They should have hammered the jury with neglect charges… neglect that led to the death of the child no matter WHO killed her. This is no different than if a mother took her kid shopping and someone snatches the kid. If she doesn’t report it and the baby dies she is partially to blame in that death through her inaction. Once the jury was sold on THAT, then the step up to manslaughter is an easy step and possibly 2nd degree murder. Instead they went for a death sentence murder one and when they didn’t prove it at all the problem went down the line just as the other would have traveled up the line.

    The guilt in this should be laid at the feet of the big shots that pushed the prosecutors to over charge the case and to try for a conviction that the evidence didn’t support. The Jury did a good job and as they should have. They listened and found the case lacking. It isn’t their fault nor is it their responsibility.

    In closing you need to understand this; the jury only sees and hears what they are in the room for. A LOT of what we heard and what the talking heads said never went into the minds of the jury. ONLY the jury can say what was proven because they saw a different trial than anyone else.

    As far as the dearth penalty is concerned, I think that we need it to some extent but not as it is currently used. You just HAVE to kill a rabid dog! Some of these monsters will kill again and again in prison if they are not put down. What I would like to see is a death penalty that is not carried out as long as the convict does no harm in prison and doesn’t try to escape. If they do either one, they need to be put down immediately.

    I have a rather different point of view than most. I have close family that works in the prison that handles death row here in Texas. They deal with these men every day. Some probably shouldn’t be there and some need killing ASAP before they kill again.


  7. Tom Carter |

    I agree with you. However, I’d be careful making comparisons between the O.J. case and the Anthony case. There was a huge amount of evidence indicating his guilt. He got off because of a clown of a judge, confused and disorganized prosecutors, and a very slick defense team. To quote myself from the article:

    …our justice system isn’t fair; basically, it’s for sale. Defendants who have the most money and can buy the best lawyers are more likely to be acquitted, to negotiate favorable plea bargains, and to receive lesser punishments. That’s why the poor are more likely to be executed than the rich.


  8. D. Dixon McClure |

    The comparison I was making had nothing to do with the quantity or quality of evidence involved.Rather I feel that in both cases the prosecution erred grievously because they were more interested in playing to the cameras and media than in prosecuting the case in the most effective way.

    In the OJ case, only an idiot would try to get a defendant to put on a leather glove that had been wet and then dried. A good glove fits tight even when it is fitted. Let it shrink a bit and there was no way OJ was going to try and force it on. It was good TV drama but terrible prosecuting!

    Also as far as I’m concerned most of the evidence was tainted in the minds of the jury when Mark Ferman(sp?) sat there and took the fifth a bagillion times about his testimony and evidence gathering.

    I agree though, THEY had the evidence to convict OJ and blew it. They really didn’t have a murder one case against Casey Anthony and blew a conviction by over charging the case.


  9. kim |

    I keep reading these grand opinions of people who have never really been on trial, or to court and gone through the system. I have been in court cases where I was on the defense’s side, the prosecutor’s side and representing a elderly relative who was abuse in a conservatorship case.

    The major point you don’t get is that it is not just about someone who is guilty that gets off because they have money but more about thank god some innocent people have money because prosecutors all over this country will make sure that you will be found guilty at any cost.

    I have seen prosecutors suppress, alter or fabricate evidence to win. They will be speculating but present it as fact and then have to produce material to back up a guess. They will go to these lengths because many prosecutors want to say they have won 99 cases out of a hundred so they can be voted for/or appointed as a judge. Then they will glide through their court load having their clerks read the case files, give them notes not reading a word themselves, resulting in the judges giving a half-ass opinions and/or verdicts until they can retire and collect their pensions.

    Most Americans think the judge is there to see that you get a fair trial but really they just listen to who ever can give the most compelling argument and delivery. The lawyers are so busy whipping back and forth legal vernacular that the substance gets lost sometimes on purpose.

    What seems to stand out for me the most about this Casey Anthony case is there might be a possibility that she was abuse by her father and/or her brother and she is mentally damaged. She didn’t react normally to anything because she has serious mental and emotional problems that has never been addressed. Drugs, alcohol, sex or any addiction or abuse is a sure sign of a undercurrent of serious problems that might not be the persons fault, they can be a victim as well. The father might know this and covered up what ever happened because he has guilt feeling about his own behavior.

    The American public as know idea that anytime they could get arrested and convicted for something they didn’t do. If you don’t have a really good lawyer that knows when to object or seek out all the lab work from a different angle you might just join the circus theater that has become our judicial system. You might get lucky and you might not depending on the actor you have hired!


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