I’d like to discuss the most recent news surrounding Casey Anthony, namely, her desire to change her name and move out of the Orlando area.
The moves are because of the verdict last week that acquitted Casey of murdering her daughter, Caylee. Due to the resulting shock and anger, Casey may fear reprisals and death threats from a seething public.
In many ways, the anger from the public is reasonable, because the public was spoon-fed by media outlets and talking heads that Casey was guilty of murdering her child. So reckless was the media in their attempts to decide the verdict for the public that some jurors now fear for their own lives, and one man from Pennsylvania also named “Casey Anthony” is receiving threatening messages.
I am deeply troubled by the sardonic commentary spreading through various news channels regarding Casey’s plans to change her name. In the New York Post, Chuck Bennett wrote, “She can hide from the public — but not her conscience.” This cavalier attitude to render someone guilty after being found not guilty is distressing and unfortunate.
This is especially true when it comes from those who are trusted to report facts (journalists) or those who swear to uphold the laws of this nation (lawyers). As I noted in my post last week, our legal system is based on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. A jury of 12 evaluated the evidence offered to them and without coaxing from the media decided that Casey Anthony was not guilty of the various homicide-related crimes.
Many in the media, including attorneys, have gone to great lengths to distinguish between the term “not guilty” and “innocent.” I do not make that distinction, mainly because it is a legal fallacy. If you’re found “not guilty” by a jury of your peers, you’re innocent as far as the law is concerned. That’s why it’s called “the presumption of innocence.” For attorneys to go on TV and attempt to make that distinction is not only disingenuous to the profession, but in my opinion, reprehensible.
We, as attorneys, know better. Simply put, if a jury of 12 found Casey “not guilty”, our nation must accept it and allow her to live her life. If that requires a name change and change of residence, so be it.