You know, most stuff in life that folks like to make ado of is really not all that important—particularly to one’s own life. I have never understood what compels people to get really upset at something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually affect them in any meaningful way. So, you can understand why someone like me might not really pay all that much attention to the debacle that was the Casey Anthony murder trial. The kid is dead, and that’s a terrible thing, but really, it falls (like most stuff in life) under the “Eh, whatever” category. Just not something to get worked up about, if you ask me.
But you know what is worth getting worked up about—and, indeed, is something that royally pisses me off in a major way? The term for it is “the court of public opinion,” also known as “being tried in the media.” Of course, it doesn’t just apply to the media—it refers to the general public. That is, laymen who have no idea what the facts of a case are, but yet strongly and passionately believe that they PERSONALLY KNOW whether a person is guilty or innocent based on nothing more than usually just looking at them and hearing a soundbyte about what they’ve been accused of.
For those of you that engage in this kind of thing, I want you to step back and think about what you’re REALLY saying here. You are saying, “This person should be imprisoned, or even put to death, based on an accusation and the rhetoric that I’ve heard.”
I hate that, and I think it is so unbelievably wrong and unfair to anyone it happens to. The worst part of it is, the people who do that expose themselves as totally ignorant morons talking out of their rear.
People who make remarks like that really get under my skin because they make conclusions based off of absolutely nothing. And it happens in every single high-profile case (particularly when a celebrity is involved). OJ Simpson? Everyone was convinced he killed his wife. Based on what? What evidence did they review? What testimony did they pore over? What witnesses did they interview? How about Michael Jackson. Everyone knew he was a child molester. Based on what? The fact that he looked and sounded weird and had an amusement park in his backyard? Everyone is certain that Jon-Benet Ramsey was killed by her parents. How? Why? What possible proof do we have for such a claim? How about Kobe Bryant; or the Duke Lacrosse Team? Everyone was so sure that these guys were rapists, but oops—guess not. Even when the person IS guilty/liable or something, they seem to think they know it beforehand. See: Scott Peterson; Paris Hilton; Martha Stewart; Michael Vick; Barry Bonds; Lindsey Lohan, etc ad nauseam.
Every single one of those people was tried in the court of public opinion and immediately found guilty despite a total and complete lack of any kind of REAL fact whatsoever to substantiate the notion. It ticks me off when the media does it, and it ticks me off when the average person does it. I truly want to physically slap them and say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, so stop pretending like you do.” Because that’s the truth of the matter: they DON’T KNOW what they’re talking about. Literally.
You know what was awesome? When Cheney Mason absolutely reamed the press for it. Good for him. It’s about time someone stood up and called people on this nonsense.
“Well, I hope that this is a lesson to those of you who have indulged in media assassination for three years. Bias, prejudice and incompetent talking heads saying what would be and how to be. I’m disgusted by some of the lawyers that have done this, and I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don’t know a damn thing about. And don’t have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it. Now you learned a lesson.”
Right on, Mason. I agree 100%.
The particularly annoying aspect of it is that we’re going to have to go a few weeks now of listening to people whine that “justice wasn’t done” or “a murderer got off the hook.” Wrong on both counts.
Justice was done. Casey Anthony was arrested and charged with crimes and the prosecution had to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. They couldn’t. They couldn’t for a lot of reasons. They had a weak case and minimal evidence. Frankly, I believe that Prosecution could have rested and the Defense could have immediately rested as well (as opposed to the very strange argument they made), and the verdict would have been the same.
And a murderer didn’t get off the hook—an accused murderer was found innocent. People seem to hate it, but in this country people are innocent until proven guilty. Period. We are not a society that locks people up or puts them to death because we’re emotionally outraged at the thought of a dead child and a mom that’s acting suspiciously. We give them the benefit of the doubt and demand proof. And that makes sense. If we are going to deprive someone of their liberty or life, it can’t simply be on a hunch or gut reaction or personal outrage at the crime they allegedly committed. And it especially can’t be because the mob has unilaterally decided that they know something they can’t possibly know.
And here’s the worst part of what the media and the public has done: they have made Casey Anthony a celebrity. She’s a millionaire-in-waiting because she’s now going to write a book and go on a dozen talk shows to be interviewed and cash in on the whole ordeal. The media and the public sensationalized her, sensationalized her case, and made her a national figure—and turns out she was innocent. Now, all those same people that were literally calling for her blood have instead made her a millionaire. (Also, sidenote: Nancy Grace is a terrible human being that makes me sick every time she opens her mouth. Also, she is extremely ugly, physically.)
I never cared about Casey Anthony because, frankly, she’s not important. Just another accused murderer, nothing more. But more importantly, the fact of the matter is, until today, I had no business whatsoever pretending that I could weigh in on a subject that NONE OF US knew anything about substantively.
The court of public opinion is a truly sickening thing. It is nothing short of disgusting to watch people pass legal judgment on someone when they don’t know the facts. When NONE of us know the facts and, in all likelihood, probably never will. Do the courts get it wrong sometimes? Yes. (Particularly when there’s a jury of laymen involved.) But until the facts have been discovered and a trial has been had on the merits—we have no business whatsoever commenting on it or suggesting that a person should be condemned simply because we’re viscerally horrified at, in this case, the thought of a little girl dead and the strange actions of a mother who didn’t report it.
We need to be smarter than that. We need to be better than that.
Oh, and one more thing—something for the court of public opinion to think about: public outcry often has a way of forcing prosecution prematurely and resulting in the State not being able to make their case, under the highest burden of proof, because they haven’t had the time they need to nail down the evidence against the accused. It doesn’t really apply to this case, that spans over three years, but it happens. The public’s rush to see justice done, to get a person in the courtroom and before a jury, leaves the prosecutor scrambling. I strongly believe that, if not for public pressure, prosecutors would do a better job of assembling and presenting the evidence they need to render a conviction. Keep that in mind next time you find yourself viscerally outraged and seeking immediate justice.