Respecting the Anthony Verdict


Casey Anthony’s attorney, Jose Baez, popped up on Geraldo Rivera’s Fox News show on Sunday, and lamented the ongoing public outrage towards the newly freed ex-mother of two-year-old Caylee Anthony. 

Jose Baez speaks with Geraldo Rivera:

Fox News sets the scene for Casey Anthony’s release from jail on Saturday:

Anthony, 25, who had spent years in the spotlight’s glare including two months of nationally televised trial proceedings was escorted outside by two sheriff’s deputies early Sunday armed with semi-automatic rifles. She swiftly boarded an SUV and rode out of public view, her destination unknown as new questions unfolded as to what her future would hold. She was given $537.68 in cash from her jail account.

As Anthony’s SUV left the jail’s parking lot, the crowd of more than 100 people surged against the orange plastic police barricades and some yelled “You suck!” Mounted patrolmen and police cruisers blocked the street outside the jail so Anthony’s vehicle could drive onto a nearby highway ramp unobstructed.

“A baby killer was just set free!” Bree Thornton, 39, shouted at the passing SUV.

Anthony had a handful of supporters in the crowd, including one man who carried a “Casey, will you marry me” sign.

But her backers — at the jail and across the country — appeared to be vastly outnumbered by her critics.

When Anthony was acquitted July 5 of murder in the death of her toddler, hundreds of thousands of people captivated by the case — and doubtful of her credibility — poured their rage into postings on the micro-blogging site Twitter and on Facebook, which has an “I Hate Casey Anthony” group. Those and other social media sites provided a platform and a vast audience for a decibel level of vitriol seldom seen before.

Responding to this, attorney Baez said, “Pundits and media personalities have no right to try and alter the life of any individual because of what they think may or may not have happened.”  If that surprises him in the Anthony case, they must not have television or newspapers on whatever planet he comes from.

Baez delivered this imperative to the angry audience for Casey Anthony’s release: “We need to start respecting the jury verdict and decisions that the juries make.”

Really?  Where does the Constitution say we’re not allowed to criticize a jury verdict?  The government is obliged to respect verdicts.  Citizens are not morally or legally authorized to take punitive actions against each other, whether a verdict has been reached or not.  Only a lawyer could demand a world where the populace would quietly accept the same strict standards of evidence imposed on a jury, in a case where no formal determination of guilt is necessary to be outraged by Casey Anthony’s conduct after the disappearance of her daughter.

It would be entirely appropriate to remind those angry spectators to respect the laws constraining their behavior.  Anthony has to live in a safe house, surrounded by bodyguards, for an indefinite period because of very reasonable concerns for her safety.  A disturbed individual in Oklahoma tried to run over a woman who merely resembles Casey Anthony with her van last week, weeks before Anthony was even released from jail.

For the benefit of anyone who might conceivably need to be reminded: leave the vigilantes in the comic books.  The Casey Anthony verdict should not lead us to declare civilization a failed experiment that should be terminated immediately. 

But as for “respecting” that jury verdict in discourse, as opposed to action: fat chance.  If you dance the night away while your daughter is missing, you can expect to encounter some severe and enduring disapproval, no matter the outcome of your jury trial.  Baez suggested Anthony’s bizarre behavior might be due to mental illness.  The general public’s opinion of that behavior is entirely sane.