MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MD, July 5, 2011 — One of the justifications for giving indicted persons the tools necessary to defend themselves is that we have always believed that it is better for 100 guilty persons to go free, than one innocent person to be wrongly convicted.
It is a premise that a young lawyer, and future president, John Adams, used as a cornerstone for a long political career as one of this country’s founding fathers.
For the past several weeks many have sat enthralled in front of their television sets watching the Casey Anthony trial. While the trial did not consume our family’s television time, I did watch quite a few hours of this trial.
I was taken aback by some of the claims of the defense, especially those related to sexual abuse of the accused. These claims were not believable to me and were, in my opinion, the defense trying to throw anyone, particularly Casey’s father, under the bus to save the defendant.
When the jury’s verdict was read this morning, it was met with surprise. People were outraged, especially the media that had assumed Casey Anthony’s guilt from the beginning. I too believe that Anthony is guilty of her daughter, Caylee’s, death.
However, as an older, educated and rather analytical adult, I understand the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So I am not surprised that the jurors absolved Casey Anthony of the major crimes of which she had been accused.
What factors could have contributed to the verdict?
My bias makes me believe that people have started turning against drastic punishment, the death penalty, that has been the norm in our country for the last 30 years.
The idea of seeing a young, attractive woman being put to death or spending the rest of her life in jail was not acceptable to them. A friend of mine stated that she believed that if Casey had been an older, unattractive minority, the trial’s outcome might have been different. That if the trial had taken place in Texas or Southwest Virginia, that finding Anthony guilty, even condemning her to death would have been more likely.
I have always been against the death penalty. When challenged with the example my wife being raped and killed by a perpetrator, I have always answered that I would hope the person would end up in jail for the rest of his/her life.
But many do support the death penalty. Even Christians, who supposedly abandoned the “eye for an eye” philosophy of the Old Testament for the “do unto others” of the Golden Rule in the New Testament, have favored the death penalty.
But isn’t the death penalty nothing more than revenge for a crime? Isn’t it a drastic action taken to satisfy the victim’s family and friends, the public’s moral outrage? If viewed as such, it tends to rationalize the idea that killing is OK, as long as we, in the form of either a jury or the judge in a trial, ratifies it.
While most of us accept that killing in a moment of danger to defend our families and ourselves can be condoned, the acceptance of killing when decided upon by the state and as ordered by a court tends to brutalize society.
We are in fact telling our younger citizens that if “we are acting in defense of justice” we can kill and with millions of persons believing this, society has set itself in the path of harm.
Death penalty proponents originally presented the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. Statistics on the validity of this are, at best ambiguous. Yet, execution of the guilty does not bring back the victims. Or fill the loss of grieving loved ones.
In my opinion, the deterrent argument has been proven false since some states decided to implement the death penalty for capital cases. A simple search on the Internet reveals that states with the death penalty have in fact higher murders rates. In the last decade, the difference has been in the order of around 40%. As a matter of fact, the statistics tend to show that states with liberal gun laws have a higher murder rate.
To me, this is a more important factor.
Another argument against the death penalty is the number of convicted persons that have been exonerated as the result of evidence not presented or ignored in their trials. The Innocence Project has been able to exonerated 272 persons that were accused of, and convicted of, capital crimes.
The state of Illinois under a conservative Republican governor vacated all its executions. This was followed by a death penalty ban for the state signed by Governor Pat Quinn who followed him in governance, to take effect July 1, 2011.
Governor Quinn indicated that his main reason was a broken system that has convicted 20 persons unjustly.
This goal has been ignored more and more as we find ourselves being the victims of crime. We all have read about cases of those who spend years in prison, some awaiting execution, only to later be found innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.
John Gresham wrote a non-fiction book, “The Innocent Man” about one such case.
So am I happy that Casey Anthony got off all the most serious charges? No I am not. The legal, not the justice, system prevailed today.
However, I am happy she was not given the death penalty in a state that has one of the highest rates of execution in the country.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker and not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles - ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket - in 21st Century Pacifist at The Washington Times Communities.
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