Dan Gillmor

The Casey Anthony Verdict, and Demoralizing Public Values

An ugly mood in America today…

At a bed & breakfast table this morning, the conversation among the B&B customers turned to yesterday’s verdict in the C**** A****** trial. People were incredulous, bordering on angry, at the acquittal. They _knew_ this was wrongly decided, and never mind the damn jury.

One woman announced that her friend watched the trial on TV and was certain that the defendant was guilty of murder. Another said, “She went partying after hearing her child was missing.”

I asked, as mildly as I could, if being a bad person is grounds for a murder conviction, and who were we to tell the jurors, who were actually there in the courtroom for the trial and ultimately didn’t believe this case was proved beyond a reasonable doubt, to say their doubts were unreasonable.

I got a couple of hard looks from others at the table. Happily, the conversation turned to other topics.

Then, on Twitter, I saw reports that the ever-odious Nancy Grace had essentially told a national TV audience that the verdict was BS. I know, this is her stock in trade: inciting the public to hate defendants she dislikes. But it’s dangerous stuff.

Maybe C.A. did it. Instead of bemoaning a verdict of not guilty, though, we should be cheering a system where, at least on occasion, the presumption of innocence — and a requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt — still means something.