Defending the Jury System from Casey Anthony Uproar

What did we learn from the Casey Anthony trial?  Lots – and likely lots more once the jurors give their interviews, but for now, here are a few things to consider:

1. Justice does not always have a “TV ending” in that you walk away having the answers you sought and feel a sense of relief.

2. The jurors on this case, whatever they say in their interviews, must have all had strong personalities.  To render a verdict that they know the public and media will persecute them for takes conviction and strength.

3. Do NOT over-promise in your opening.  The one alternate juror who has spoken so far has already mentioned the promise of the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt how Caylee died.

4. Jury selection is greatly important – as are focus groups.  You may not realize that a fine group of my colleagues were involved in this case starting 2.5 years ago, often doing work pro bono, running focus groups every day and shadow juries.  I believe the defense verdict speaks to their tireless work.

Learning aside, even if you are surprised, angry, or skeptical of the verdict, it is important not to blame the jurors.  What we all saw on television is not what the jurors saw and vice-versa.  While we were watching interposed images of Caylee’s smiling face with her rotting skull, jurors were sitting in uncomfortable chairs looking at blank documents or simply listening to testimony.  Do not underestimate the unconscious power of the media to sway the public.  The jurors were removed from all of that.  Further, the jurors did not say that Casey was innocent – only that there was not enough evidence to convict her.  We can disagree with the verdict, but please respect the jurors.  They gave up a lot and it is very rare to find jurors who simply do not care about doing a good job.  Remember that the media trial we watched is not the same trial the jurors participated in.

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