My July 4 weekend was a joyful one. My friend, Audrey (from over at Living Audaciously) was visiting and we all were having a grand time, which I will write more about soon. But my weekend was also consumed (along with many Americans) with the Casey Anthony murder trial. Now, I realize there has been a lot of hysteria surrounding this trial. A particular low point was the time fist-fights broke out as people tried to get into the trial to observe it firsthand. (Had they never heard of cable TV?)
For me, the obsession with the trial concerned the precious little girl, Caylee, who died. She was the age of my daughter now when she died. She even resembled my daughter a little bit. And my mommy heart-strings were pulled when I saw how callously she had been discarded in a swamp and how she had not been protected and cared for as she needed and deserved. I kept thinking, "If only someone could have been there to protect little Caylee."
As the case entered into closing arguments this weekend, I was riveted. The predictions early on were that closing arguments may take 4 hours to perhaps an entire day for each side. But prosecuting attorneys Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick wove compelling, succinct, devastating closing arguments. I watched, riveted, and if I had had any reasonable doubt of Casey's guilt before, hearing their solid arguments removed that doubt. I found myself wishing that this trial was not in the days of CSI and Law and Order. Because we now have DNA evidence at our disposal, we think every case should be proven by DNA. We forget that juries used to have to decide cases without any DNA evidence. In those days, I imagine most cases were in fact circumstantial, for most murders don't have witnesses. Now, with crime TV in our pocket, we think all murders should have both DNA evidence and witnesses. We think that there should be no conviction without these.
The prosecution in this case knew differently. They wove an airtight argument showing a pattern of lying behavior by Casey, narrowing the suspects down to those living in the Anthony home, and then excluding all but Casey as suspects. They made the powerful argument disputing the defense's story that Caylee's death was an accidental drowning: "Why make an accidental death look like a murder?" They pointed out that when a child accidentally dies, in 100 percent of cases, someone tries to save them. Linda Drane Burdick made the powerful argument that if Caylee had accidentally drowned, she would have been found in a pool, not in a swamp. They made powerful arguments that placed the duct tape on Caylee prior to her death. And it was clear that even if Casey had tried to drug Caylee to get her to be quiet and she had died accidentally, that was still felony murder, a murder caused by aggravated child abuse. Having watched these closing arguments, I felt the case was airtight.
And when the jurors came back after only 10 hours of deliberation, I thought surely Casey would be judged guilty. I watched the TV intently, waiting for the verdict.
And then it was announced. Not guilty. Not guilty of any charge related to Caylee's death. Guilty only of lying to the police, a charge that may even result in time served.
I was stunned. Waves of cynicism about justice washed over me. My heart was broken that this precious little child would never get justice now. The case against Casey was strong, her character unreliable, and she stood to gain from her daughter's death. The thought that she would now walk free was horrifying.
I turned to Twitter to share in solidarity with others who were similarly outraged. I was troubled to see some people who suggested violence against the jurors could be imminent, or that Casey should be killed by fictional serial killer "Dexter." Although I disagree profoundly with the jurors' conclusion, I believe they took it seriously and did their job. They do not deserve any backlash for their decision. But I would like to understand. To understand how they could come to such a decision. They must have had their reasons. I hope we will get to hear their voices, but worry that we may not because their safety may become an issue if their identity is known.
My consolation is that God knows what happened, and that Casey will probably face the stigma of all this for the rest of her life. I do not begrudge her forgiveness if she would be repentant, but I have seen little sign of repentance even of the lying of which she was convicted.
In reflecting on the Casey Anthony trial, I understood some of her feelings. When you have a child, it is a little bit of a rude awakening. There is no way anyone can adequately prepare you for the changes that come with a child. You can't enjoy nights out like you used to. When you nurse your child, trips must be planned carefully. You suffer exhaustion, a tighter budget, loneliness. You suffer isolation. Your vision of what your life would be changes, forever.
I have had many times when I mourned the loss of all of these things. This is a normal part of parenting.
But what keeps you going is that you have this precious child--who, yes, makes you want to tear your hair out on occasion, but who also has added to your life in ways that are impossible to quantify. You are changed. You are a different person now. You are a parent and always will be. You have a love that swells your heart in ways you never thought it could. You would be willing to risk your own life to save your child. For me, this latter feeling was one I had never really had for another human being. But it was visceral with my child. I felt her pain in my bones. Literally. Her cries rattled my very being.
And that is what all of us cannot understand about Casey Anthony. We understand that she was tired sometimes, that she felt alone, that she missed her old life. We do not understand a mother who does nothing to find her missing child for a whole month. We do not understand a mother who lies and hinders the police. We do not understand a mother who cares so little about her child's pain.
If there is any consolation, it is that there are many who mourn for Caylee. Her mother would not, but we will. But it isn't enough. It isn't enough.