Please stop asking me what I think about the Casey Anthony trial!

I have had many people ask me what I, as a criminal defense attorney, think about the Casey Anthony trial. Let me put it out there like this:

I think it’s over. I think we’ll never know what “really” happened.

I think this case was an anomaly. I think there will likely never be another one quite like it. I think there will be other “big” cases. I think we will never see a sadder one, with with the horrible fact of a toddler’s death, a tormented young mother, a delayed reporting, a family forever fractured, etc etc etc – and, oh, yeah, with LOTS of media coverage.

I think that we as a society have learned valuable lessons here. I think people should learn more about the criminal justice system. I think everyone should take time to not rush to judgment. I think that the concept of “truth” in legal proceedings took a terrible blow, and I think that a terrible message was sent to our children, that it is OK to lie and get away with doing bad things. I think our justice system as a whole has been wounded, and only with the people educating themselves on the law will it ever fully recover.

I think the legal field has learned a lot. I think that we know we are in a social media age, where attorneys can fashion their arguments on the fly to suit what the world is saying about the case on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the like. I think that we have seen that it doesn’t take a whole lot of skill sometimes, as much as it takes a whole lot of luck. I think that we should step back as attorneys and look at trial ethics, and hold ourselves to the highest standards.

I think that the media should take a close look at its ethics, balancing the need to report on crime with the desire to create ratings. I think that the courts should be fairly and closely covered and reported on. I think sensationalistic journalism – manifested in the race to have the latest and most scandalous stories in order to draw watchers – should be outlawed. I think that it’s not going to get better before it gets worse, as the world desperately seeks its next trial to satiate its desire for the outlandish.

So, that’s what I think. I think that’s what I think. Let me think about it. . .

Author: Joe Bodiford

Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, Nationally Board Certified in Criminal Trial Advocacy, and AV* rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Former adjunct professor of law and co-director of the Trial Team at Florida State University College of Law; former adjunct professor of law at Stetson University College of Law (Florida criminal procedure, Trial Advocacy). Curator of Advocacy Underground. Practicing in the area of State and Federal Criminal Trial and Appeals. Visit us at!

3 thoughts on “Please stop asking me what I think about the Casey Anthony trial!”

  1. The role of the media is to inform. The fact that people actually put on the TV at a designated hour or read their local newspaper over their mornnig cup of coffee should not deter the messenger from their goal to make a profit, secure viewers and readers as “customers” or to benefit from good ratings and advertizers dollars. What “ethical” problems did you encounter as a viewer or a reader? Did the media misrepresent the truth or were they reporting on a capital case that fundamentally was predicated on lies and those willing to tell them?

    Who really cares if the reporting was “outlandish” when Florida has very liberal discovery laws?
    Why waste time reading newspapers, blogs and tweets that don’t inform but instead are an “outlet” or a venue to exercise one’s right to say what they wouldn’t necessarily say to their Auntie from Belair.

    Just what is a rush to judgement? Three years preparing to go to trial or about 8-9 hours deliberating? Should high school drop outs be required to take literacy testing if they are selected for jury duty or just for a capital case? How do you select citizens who can define “logical thinking” or those with critiical thinking skills? If jurors come to the process as good tweeters, or addicted to FB be an indication that possibly they are less informed than most defendants would like? Lady justice is blind-she’s not dumb.

    I like my coffee with whole milk and a newspaper that is willing and able to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth even if it’s necessary to expose liars and those who love them.

    1. An excellent, insightful comment – thank you.

      I agree that the role of the media is to inform – we want the press there, covering, asking questions, presenting us with facts. The media has a critical role in the proper functioning of the justice system and government in general. My problem is with the evening “sensational” “journalists”, the ones who want to make a circus of things. There are news agencies, and there are entertainment outlets. My concern is, without careful distinction between the two, that the line can be blurred and people who are not well-educated about the system and how criminal cases are “supposed” to work (by rules of procedure, the Constitution, etc) can begin to have expectations of proceedings and outcomes that are not realistic. Really, it is not the complete fault of the “sensational” shows, but it doesn’t help when we are already dealing with a population that truly does not understand how and why proceedings are going like they are going. It is those shows to which I direct the “outlandish” comment. Even with open discovery, the facts can always be spun in ways that don’t tell the truth, no?

      The rush to judgment was not by the jurors. I find no fault in the verdict they rendered. They did what they felt like they needed to do – end of story. That is how our system is designed to work (from jury selection, through trial, deliberation, and ultimately verdict). My concern is that everyone else who did NOT sit through the trial rushed to judgment. People on TV, crying and carrying on about the outcome when they heard or saw little or none of the pre-trial and trial proceedings. It’s that knee-jerk reaction that people have (again, based on what they see on the “sensational journalistic” programs) that is most concerning. That’s why we need more education about our system. Learn about the process, get all the facts, learn about the law . . . then render an opinion.

      Thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment. Please feel free to post often, and question what I post. Everyone learns where there is an open dialogue.

  2. You are correct. When citizens rely on “sensational” evening cable shows they tend to have a “sensational” view of trials, procedures and outcomes. We cannot blame our system of justice but we can take a long hard look at competency and literacy levels of those who are placed in a position to judge the “worst of the worst”.

    Why jurors felt it was important to discredit and diminish the evidence presented by the prosecutors is unclear to me. To say in one breath that they didn’t believe the drowning theory yet felt that “George was not telling the truth” is troubling and without merit. They were asked to evaluate the lies of the defendant, use their common sense and come to a group consensus on guilt or innocence. There was no evidence of a drowning and Mr Anthony, by his own admission walked Caylee and Casey to the car and kissed them both goodbye on July 16, 2011.(see FBI report). This child was killed at home when both parents were either sleeping or at work. Mr Anthony’s veracity was not in question.

    Jurors engaged in a form of “duping delight”. Ms Anthony got an enormous amount of pleasure when she duped others and often times it included separating someone from their money or causing them emotional distress. There will be jurors who will “talk” and then there will be jurors who will “want to be left alone”. That doesn’t speak too highly of our selection process but it does expose frauds, “laggards and opportunists” (Bill Shaeffer).

    Jurors didn’t realize that our system of justice is open, fair and far less adversarial than most believe. Some believe our criminal justice system is justice for criminals and that most defense attorneys want jurors to give their client some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Jurors set her free because they believed “prosecutors did not do their job”. Who will evaluate the job jurors did? Not one of them interviewed thus far has even mentioned the victim. Odd.

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