I will begin by stating that I have worked on a number of high profile criminal and civil trials in my career, including the Robert Blake murder defense, so I know what it looks like on the inside. I hope to work on several more, so there are some things I cannot share here.
I will admit that I didn’t follow this trial closely, even though it was deemed the “Trial of the Century” by HLN. Ratings reportedly doubled for the trial on HLN, as they focused almost exclusively on the trial. It is important to note that media carriers are not just a public service – they are a business. Other than a few inside tidbits here and there, my source of information on this trial was the same as most everyone else’s – the various forms of mass media coverage.
While Nancy Grace and the HLN team seemed to imply this was a done deal, as I watched the verdict being published, I can’t say that I was shocked. I may have been leaning slightly toward a guilty verdict, but I know that the jury has information that I do not, and that I have information that they do not. Although the waves of comments on Twitter seemed disappointed with our legal system and the outcome of this trial, I can say that a case is not decided on the opinions of observers and commentators. It is decided by the evidence presented by each side, and in Criminal Law, it must be convincing beyond a “reasonable doubt.” In other words, what the jury sees and hears is used to determine the outcome of the case, and nothing else. Although this jury was sequestered (isolated), a “normal” jury will simply be instructed to avoid any contact or exposure to media coverage of a trial, and not to discuss it with anyone.
During deliberations, the jury has only their notes and admitted evidence to work with. Although we were given an opportunity to see most of the evidence presented to the jury, they were not viewing it along with a picture of little Caylee in one corner, and “Tot-Mom” in another. Visual presentation can be very persuasive. In fact, that’s what I do for a living. It’s not always just the information that matters, but also the way it is presented.
So, do I agree with the verdict? Absolutely. You cannot convict someone if you don’t have the evidence to do so. That’s why our justice system works. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best there is. The jury agreed that Casey Anthony had lied to Law Enforcement Officers, and convicted her, based on the evidence. They found her not guilty of murder, due to the lack of evidence.
For additional info:
What a quick verdict can tell us about a jury by Doug Keene for CNN, about the Casey Anthony trial
The Red Well: Blog Aggregator for Views on Litigation Persuasion by members of the ASTC (American Society of Trial Consultants)
Jurors and Technology in Trial: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits By Ted Brooks, about the Robert Blake trial, and others
Video of Robert Blake Verdict
Video of Robert Blake Jury Foreman explaining why they acquitted him.