Questions Without Answers

According to an alternate juror, Russell Huekler, the verdict was correct.

Huekler laid out three reasons:

  • The prosecution “didn’t present the evidence that would have sustained either a murder charge or a manslaughter charge.”

  • They also failed to show a motive. “We and I kept waiting to see what was the motive — “just being a party girl” did not show why she might have killed Caylee, he said.

  • And the prosecution was also unable to say “how did Caylee actually pass away.”

Asked whether Huekler thought Anthony, 25, was innocent or if he had reasonable doubt she was guilty, he said: “Definitely reasonable doubt for myself.”

Is this why Casey Anthony was acquitted of the top counts?  It certainly seems reasonable, but I can’t say.  Neither can Huekler, reasonable though his explanation may be.

Before the verdict, everybody had answers, with the loudest voice being Nancy Grace who seized every opportunity to tell the rest of us how much she knew.  After, she was the ugliest person on TV.  Truth is, she was always that ugly, but it didn’t come into focus until her face contorted in disgust.

One of the hardest things to get used to is reaching an end without having answers.  Tolerance for ambiguity, the variety of things it might have been, isn’t the norm in a world where everything is explained in the final five minutes of the show.  We got a verdict, but we have no answers.  Most people can’t stand it.

Did the system work or fail? The pundits were fools before the verdict, and they will still be fools afterward. They have no magic knowledge.  They have no answers.  Neither do I.

It’s never clear what a jury might do. It’s even less clear why.  Sometimes, there is no reason behind it at all, while other times the reason is abundantly sound.  We can’t believe the post-verdict interviews, where they explain their rationale after they’ve had a chance to form one.  The dynamic in the jury room defies normal explanations.  It’s like focus groups, which never seem to do what anyone expects them to do, and often goes flying into weird space that no one could have anticipated.

What of the judge, or Jose Baez, or the parents, or Caylee?  Some will focus on the individuals of choice, the ones that they believe were critical to the outcome.  Are they right?  Maybe. Maybe not. It’s all speculation.

There are few things I hate more than speculation, not because it isn’t fun to do, but because it proves nothing. It’s a waste of time, a game for children.

The system worked, however.  That much I know.  When the jury reached a verdict, that’s what the system is supposed to do.  What that verdict is, on the other hand, isn’t dictated by the system itself, but by the vicissitudes of trial.  Despite the efforts of all involved, the outcome sometimes comes on its own.  And sometimes the right outcome happens.  The reasons for it, well, don’t really matter.  That’s why juries don’t have to explain themselves and justify their verdict.

A word about the much maligned Jose Baez, who was not treated well by much of anybody.  He won this trial. No one can ever take that away from him.  He’s been called a lot of bad things during the course of trial, and he’s had to suffer the criticism of lawyers and pundits who thought they were his better.  But he won, and they didn’t. 

This post offers no answers because I have none.  That’s how trials happen sometimes.  Stercus accidit.  That’s our system. Get used to questions without answers.  Or play with yourself and pretend that you know something when you really don’t.  It doesn’t matter, as it won’t change the verdict.

16 comments on “Questions Without Answers

  1. Bad Lawyer

    I have this theory that these wildly out-of-control media cases work as a Rorschach test for the public, and lawyers alike. Often, and my blawg is exhibit “A,” finger pointing results in 3 fingers pointing backwards at ourselves. This certainly seems to be true with that UBS (ugly Blond shrew)Nancy Grace.

    I thought the comments of the alternate juror were remarkably reasonable and germane to the task of finding guilt or innocence. How about that…a reasonable person willing to follow the law in his role as a prospective juror who actually heard all the evidence and saw all the witnesses up close.

    The lawyer-punditry by comparison to this alternate juror is an astounding embarrassment.

  2. SHG

    I thought the explanation was sound and reasonable as well.  But what I think means nothing. Who knows if that’s what truly happened? I don’t.

  3. Anne

    Scott, I’m going to have to disagree — even though you’ve been in front of juries and I haven’t. Juries do have reasons for what they decide. The decisions aren’t random crapshoots. Jurors see and experience a body of knowledge. They do not pull a rabbit out of a hat, or spin a roulette wheel. Jurors are “reasonable,” which is what we ask them to be.

  4. SHG

    If it makes you feel better to believe this, an article of faith seen only from a distance, that’s okay.  Like mine, your belief changes nothing.

  5. Kentucky Packrat

    Even though I’m a general cynic, I’m always encouraged to hear someone actually say “the state didn’t get past reasonable doubt”. Milady and I don’t have cable (so no Nancy Grace at night, YAY!), and on Saturday nights there’s little on but 48 Hour Mysteries. It always scares me how the jurors say “I wasn’t very convinced by the prosecution, but I just don’t believe the defendant.” I always want to scream at the TV “That’s not your job!” Milady just turns the channel now, for some odd reason.

  6. SHG

    Reasonable doubt is a funny thing.  Whenever someone is acquitted (which isn’t all that often), wags always blame reasonable doubt. “Well, of course they found her not guilty. Nobody is ever guilty because of reasonable doubt…”  And yet the reality is the opposite, that no one knows what they heck it means and people are convicted all the time even though jurors emerge later to say that they had a ton of doubt, but convicted anyway because, well, they thought the defendant was guilty.

    Great system.

  7. Lurker

    I would say that the opposite way of trying people, the judges as triers of fact, does not give people any more belief in the system, when they acquit.

    In Finland this week, a court of appeals acquitted, after the conviction in a district court, a woman who had been charged with the murder of her husband. (In our country, the accused is entitled to a complete retrial in the court of appeals, with all the evidence and witnesses re-examined.)

    The court of appeals wrote a decision, over 20 pages long, summarizing all evidence and writing in detail why the unanimous court did have a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant.

    The public discussion was rather shrill and many people seemed to have difficulty accepting an acquittal, especially after a district court had convicted with votes 2-1. Now the prosecution is pondering whether to apply for a cert from the Supreme Court. (Here, the prosecution can appeal an acquittal.)

    So, from this point of view, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  8. A Voice of Sanity

    A big part of the acquittals may have been the prosecution. By spending so much time proving she was an incredible liar BEFORE the death of her daughter they actually wound up offering reasons why she would lie about it AFTERWARDS and why she would avoid dealing with it in a proper manner.

    Anyone else, I might convict on the same evidence but not Casey who clearly will do anything to avoid confrontation or accusation and always has. Why would anyone imagine that she would suddenly behave appropriately at this time of maximum stress?

  9. James

    Silly prosecutor, slut-shaming only works for defense attorneys.

    You’re right, no answers, just a belief that maybe juries don’t like getting their ‘murder for justice’ on if the best the prosecution can muster is ‘she likes penis’. I think that’s a good thing.

  10. Lee Keller King

    Stercus accidit, indeed. I must start using the Casey Anthony verdict when explaining to my commercial litigation clients that NO ONE knows what a jury will do!

    But then, if I could tell beforehand, I’d probably become a highly-compensated jury consultant. 🙂

  11. Greg

    Saying Baez won this because there was a good result is the same thing as saying that a skilled and dedicated advocate who does the absolute best that could be expected “loses” when his enormously guilty client goes down in flames

    Baez got a good result, but it’s a pretty open question as to whether he was an effective or even competent advocate for his client’s interests. Securing a not guilty against a circumstantial prosecution on a weak set of legs doesn’t necessarily constitute a win

  12. SHG

    Yes and no. Like it or not, it is and will forever be Baez’s win, and nothing can take that away from him, whether he deserved it or not.

  13. Ron

    “Tolerance for ambiguity” and “Get used to questions without answers” sound very Buddhist.

    It is funny how much people reject gray and look to get things black and white. Unfortunately, the world simply isn’t that way.

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