I did not expect the not-guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony trial but I am not surprised by it. I haven't followed the case since Caylee Anthony first went missing. My personal gut check says that little Caylee probably died from neglect and her flaky mother attempted to hide the body to avoid the inevitable consequences. It was clear from the beginning that Casey had something to hide and her story about what happened to Caylee never made much sense.
So, I was expecting Casey Anthony to receive a guilty verdict followed by life in prison without parole. I based this assumption upon the fact that a little girl was dead and my belief that her mother was not making any sense. Needless to say today's verdict comes as a surprise.
But as I think about it, I can't find myself faulting the jury. I try to imagine what it would feel like to literally hold a woman's life in my hands while no incontrovertible physical evidence could tell me how the little girl died much less establishing premeditation upon her mother's part. I would have difficulty convicting for negligent homicide (manslaughter) much less first degree murder.
I've heard prosecutors complain in the past that police procedure dramas on TV have raised the bar for obtaining jury convictions. Jurors now want hard evidence and no ambiguity, just like they see on TV. I don't find myself getting too upset about that. Too many innocent people have already been released from death row because jurors were willing to believe whatever a prosecutor put before them. Casey Anthony benefited from this higher standard of proof but that does not mean that the "system" failed. I think it worked just like it was supposed to.
The jurors were told that there must not be a reasonable doubt in any of their minds before they could ethically return a guilty verdict. I think that they followed their instructions both to the letter and the spirit of the law.