Steven G. Percifield--author

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Steven G. Percifield  Author and consultant
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Casey Anthony: systemic
hobbling of our courts?


98.37412 % (estimate) of people to whom I've spoken have very definite opinions regarding the Casey Anthony verdict. To sum these up as politely and civilly as I can,

  1. she did it,
  2. she deserves capital punishment (at a minimum), and
  3. the "not guilty" verdict is a travesty, illustrating once again the failure of the criminal justice system in this country.

While I personally agree with 1 and 2 above, I strongly disagree on point number three. And therein lies the rub. A recent conversation with a friend--an intelligent, successful, self-made type with whom I share comparable political philosophy (usually)--gave me cause to question my disagreement with number three.

To my way of thinking, the founding fathers, generally well-educated types with sound groundings in history, politics and philosophy, were opposed to unfettered power, whether that power was concentrated in the hands of the government, the church or--the pawn of both of them at various times--the courts.

Throughout history (and still today in some countries), those who found themselves in disagreement with either the state or the prevailing church also found themselves imprisoned or dead. Few things discouraged one's dissent quite as effectively as long-term incarceration or (longer term) execution. And with courts and judicial systems at the beck and call of the empowered, the removal of those who threatened or opposed them was easily accomplished.

By design, our justice system was weighted in favor of the accused in order to prevent the use of the courts as the enforcement of arm of tyrannical power. The guiding philosophy seemed to be that it was better to let five criminals go free than to imprison one innocent person. Trial by a jury of one's peers, proven guilt beyond any reasonable doubt and other such pedestals were the foundations upon which our criminal justice system was built. The tough thing about good foundations though, is that they're not easily moved, even when you want to do so; If they were, by definition, they wouldn't be good foundations...kind of like building upon the sand as opposed to building upon a rock.

These were my basic arguments as to why--despite the fact that I disagreed with it--I did not consider the "not guilty" verdict to be a travesty. In this particular instance, justice was not served, but the integrity of the overall philosophy upon which our system is built was maintained (albeit to the distaste of many, myself included).

My friend Bob, however, took a different (and typically long-winded--I think it was the beer) view. The essence of his argument was that this was simply one more example of how an archaic legal system, built upon outmoded efforts to protect its citizenry from the justice system, did so by failing to provide the justice that the vast majority of the citizenry desired. Isn't this rather like our current public education system which in far too many cases fails to provide an education. The preservation of the system has become more important that the purpose for which it was established.

Good points, well-taken. I don't know if Bob's arguments have changed my original position...but they sure have made me question it.