(Disclaimer: I haven’t followed this at all closely. I knew the gist of the allegations, like just about everyone else. But I read some articles today that raised interesting points.)
Try to imagine you’re a defense lawyer with a client on trial for her life, and you have to contend with this kind of thing: even newspaper headlines are insidiously but firmly biased in favor of your opponent and against you and your client.
Reuters: “Prosecutors outline Casey Anthony’s alleged life of lies.”
CBS News: “Casey Anthony Defense claims Caylee drowned in family pool…”
Notice how prosecutors “outline” – implying objectivity and just-the-facts; but the defense “claims” – promoting skepticism and implying partisanship and bias.
How about ABC News? “Casey Anthony Trial: Sullen Casey Anthony cries during opening…”
Sullen? Look it up. Brooding. Silent resentment. The word has especially sinister connotations in context: the “sullen” person stands accused of a loathesome crime.
Washington Post: “Prosecution says duct tape killed Fla. toddler; Casey Anthony’s defense claims girl drowned.”
Prosecution says. An affirmative statement. Defense claims. A questionable assertion.
Gotta love this one, from the International Business Times: “Casey Anthony Trial: Psychopath or Telling the Truth?
Well, somebody’s a psychopath here. But it might be her father. Or the prosecutors or the police. But to the IBT, those issues are not on the table. Only Casey Anthony’s mental health is at issue, because she sits in the defendant’s chair.
The press loves the police and all the “authorities” and therefore loves criminal convictions and tries mightily to bring them about. They can’t help themselves. It’s how their bread is buttered. “Guilty” is so dramatic, and so cathartic for all the People Who Matter – a group that does not include criminal defendants or their lawyers.
The prosecution in the case should be in serious, serious trouble. And perhaps they even are: according to the reports I read there is no conclusion by the coroner regarding the cause of the little girl’s death. That means drowning is as plausible as whatever the prosecution alleges. That should perhaps end the inquiry right there. The coroner’s report may be the only evidence that isn’t ginned up junk science or he-said, she-said crap.
But the panic of the press in the face of the defense’s rather dramatic opening statement is another of those inadvertently revealing things. They respond not with circumspection and thoughtful reflection, but rather harder and harder spinning, until they are subtly editorializing even in their headlines. They can’t even wait for the first paragraph of the story to start spinning.
To me, the drowning-cum-dysfunctional family has the ring of truth because that month long gap between the little girl’s disappearance and the report is just too weird otherwise. But my natural sympathy lies with the defense, and I’m no expert on the Casey Anthony thing.
Unlike the execrable Nancy Grace, whose show I have heard of but never seen other than through a few short clips on the web. Still, I’ll bet she’s apoplectic and will be unable to refrain from calling the defense lawyers “liars” or smearing them with irrelevant stuff.
High profile criminal trials are beautiful, aren’t they?
Update: Check out this “reporting” from the Orlando Sentinel:
Casey Anthony’s defense team — specifically Jose Baez — was drawing withering reviews for the cross examination of George Anthony this afternoon.
“The defense was obviously not prepared,” said WKMG-Channel 6 legal analyst Mark NeJame. “It’s because they were so unprepared, it ended it early. It ended it on a high for the prosecution on the first day.”
Well, if he was “unprepared” he would certainly come in for some “withering” criticism. Jose Baez is not Mr. Popular in Orlando because he’s throwing water on everyone’s party. But that goes with the territory.
In any case, however, no facts are presented, just opinion and characterization. In fact, Baez might have done a lot of damage on his cross examination, but you won’t know for sure until closing arguments. You don’t fight with a witness when you’re the defendant. Only prosecutors can get away with that. But you might get damaging admissions if you’re sly about it.
Then there’s this:
WFTV-Channel 9 reporter Kathi Belich said that Baez “tried to hammer George with questions, but Chief Judge Belvin Perry stopped it. The defense accused George of sexually abusing Casey from when she was a child and claimed it got worse as she got older. They tried to use it explain Casey’s lies.”
Did you get that? Judge Belvin Perry stopped it. Stopped the cross examination of a prosecution witness in a capital murder trial. So much for the right to “confront” witnesses.
Happens all the time. Harmless error, doncha know.
This is a textbook case of what trials are really like. Everyone is so sure. Everyone wants a conviction. The judge, too.
Careers are on the line and not much else. Little Caylee Anthony will still be dead, no matter what happens.
Update 2: Here’s Nancy Grace and ABC News, with Nancy exhibiting that tight reasoning that has made her such a media
Such as: Casey’s father George sat in the courtroom clutching a Bible. Ergo, he could not have molested his daughter and tried to frame her for the murder of her own daughter. Don’t quite follow that line of reasoning? Don’t worry: it’s a non-sequitur.
And of course, he denied all that during a brief appearance on the witness stand anyway. His denials were “riveting”. Surely, he would have admitted it all if it was true.
And let’s not forget, George is a former cop. Meaning, he knows how to frame people if he’s of a mind to. And he’s an experienced witness who knows how to commit perjury convincingly.