Postmodern Verdict

by Carol Iannone

The Casey Anthony not guilty verdict was very disturbing. It doesn’t do to say that the jurors did their best and that this is how our system works, or to blame it on the Constitution or boast that ours is the greatest justice system in the world, a boast that is sounding more and more hollow with each passing year. It also doesn’t do to say that the law doesn’t always deliver justice. We can’t listen to nihilistic defense lawyers who long ago sold their souls and rejoice every time a guilty person gets off. I have had doubts about our justice system since the O. J. Simpson trial, but here is a case where the system could certainly have worked if the jurors had done their job. But these jurors are the product of years of miseducation, relativism, and postmodernism. The pronouncements of the jurors and the alternate juror who have spoken out — so far all young enough to have been products of relatively recent pedagogy — give us a good idea of what went wrong.

The entitlement culture of much education today meant that the jurors did not feel they should have to do the work of “connecting the dots.” Since everything was not perfectly spelled out for them by the prosecution, exactly how the murder took place and when and where and so on, they felt they should not convict. One can just see the years of self-esteem and overpraise and automatic good grades and collaborative learning and hands-on fun classroom projects and teachers jumping through hoops to entertain them — all substituting for real education — accumulating to sprout in that not-guilty verdict. Without its all being handed to them tied with a bow, they could not string together the circumstantial evidence, and conveniently allowed themselves to entertain totally unsubstantiated theories thrown out by the defense as reasonable doubt, such as there having been an accidental drowning or that George Anthony might have been involved. And they truly could not put two and two together. One juror said he didn’t understand why if you use chloroform you also need duct tape.

Furthermore, the relativism of today’s educational culture meant that these jurors were unable to weigh the emphases they should give to different elements. Anthony’s 31 days of lying about her child’s being missing, as well as her leading the police on several wild goose chases, were dismissed as dispositive of anything because Casey was known to be a liar from before these incidents. They were unable to tell the difference between day-to-day lying and deliberately misleading the police over the whereabouts of a missing child for 31 days.

The same juror mentioned above said that he did feel a reaction to the thought of Anthony’s lying for 31 days, but felt that his reaction was a matter of emotion, and emotion is not law. He did not understand that the 31 days of lying may have aroused him emotionally, but that it was also in itself a fact that could be held against her. He was unable to tell the difference between his subjective reaction to something and the objective truth about it.

It really is a mistake to make excuses for these jurors, because that would be sending out the false message to many people who may themselves be jurors one day, and one day soon, that this behavior was perfectly legitimate. But it is not. They did not work hard, did not process the information they had, did not weigh things properly, did not understand reasonable doubt or circumstantial evidence, did not ask the judge any questions, and deliberated for only eleven hours after weeks of testimony on a very complicated case.   

Judges and prosecutors should be aware of these deficits; judges should give more careful instructions and prosecutors should make their presentations much more basic and assume nothing.