COLUMN: We're the guilty ones in Casey Anthony acquittal

Friday, July 8, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
For those who watch television, however, there has been no escape from Casey Anthony. She has been everywhere. You have heard of Big Brother? She is his Little Sister, only she doesn't watch us; we watch her, every waking moment for weeks.

Only hermits or monks have been safe from exposure to Casey Anthony, and some of them undoubtedly will break their solitude to ask visitors how the trial in Orlando went.

Such is the culture-permeating presence of Casey Anthony, who, innocent or guilty, has shown herself to be a poor excuse for a human being but a great excuse to boost ratings.

After so much buildup, the acquittal came as a surprise to the prosecution, and no doubt, to many Americans. Cleared of first-degree murder, Casey Anthony was convicted of four counts of lying to investigators.

That raises the question of how a jury could reasonably view a serial liar as worthy of the presumption of innocence by virtue of reasonable doubt, especially as the defense offered on her behalf seemed fanciful, a tale seemingly more rooted in fiction than reality.

But I wasn't there and I wasn't glued in front of the television watching the trial, so in truth I don't know whether this unusual verdict comports with the evidence.

All I know is that I am not surprised — and with a little historical perspective, you probably aren't either. After all, you recall Lizzie Borden, accused of the ax murder of her parents in Fall River, Mass., in 1892.

She is immortalized after a fashion by a tasteless jingle: "Lizzie Borden took an ax / And gave her mother 40 whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father 41."

Everyone knows the jingle; most forget the verdict. After the 19th-century version of a media circus trial, Lizzie Borden was acquitted. Some people to this day say she was innocent, but I am in no position to say. What I know is that the fevered publicity probably didn't help with getting at the truth.

In 1995, O.J. Simpson was improbably found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and a male friend of hers. Indeed, the spotlight in the O.J. case pretty much drove everybody involved a little crazy, including the judge, prosecutors, defense lawyers and witnesses.

How many trials of a century can one century have? We can only hope not many. Unfortunately, someone like CNN legal commentator Nancy Grace, doing her famous growling bulldog impersonation, is sure to find some bad actor equally undeserving of attention to monopolize the nation's interest.

The public will be teased with the hope of justice in a new trial of the century, which we know from past trials of the century can send good sense screaming into the night.

Although nobody should take 40 whacks at the First Amendment and its promise of freedom of the press, someone or something has to be blamed for the justice system's failure to inspire confidence whenever the harsh light of publicity is turned full on to a particular case.

I say blame the celebrity culture, before which juries of ordinary people seem to be rendered bereft of common sense. Americans, collectively, are the ones who allowed a seedy case to be turned into a cause celebre. Little Caylee deserved more than to have her death become a type of entertainment.

The verdict is in, and it seems to say less about Casey Anthony, who before long will be back at her life's work (partying), and more about the prevailing culture.

Reg Henry writes a column for the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

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Paul Allaire July 8, 2011 | 11:50 a.m.

"Only hermits or monks have been safe from exposure to Casey Anthony."

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 8, 2011 | 12:10 p.m.

I probably watch less television than the usual American, but I sure haven't seen any Casey Anthony coverage on NASA TV, Discovery Channel, History Channel, and similar outlets. I've had a couple friends on Facebook or forums go off a bit on the verdict, but that's about it.

(Report Comment)

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