Attorneys react to Anthony verdict: Juries today set bar at 'CSI' level


Unlike many Americans, Clark County District Attorney David Roger did not follow the lengthy murder trial of Casey Anthony, whom a Florida jury found not guilty Tuesday afternoon of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008.

"We have enough cases here," he said, "and I quit trying to second-guess juries a long time ago. I once told a reporter I thought O.J. Simpson would be found guilty of murder, and I was wrong."

Coincidentally, the world of social media was abuzz Tuesday with reaction to the verdict, with many people comparing Anthony's case with Simpson's. And just like the public reaction to Simpson's verdict, most comments were not favorable to the 25-year-old Florida woman, who prosecutors alleged murdered her young daughter to escape the responsibilities of parenthood.

Roger said the jury was exposed to the fact that prosecutors probably would seek the death penalty, and that might have influenced jurors as well.

"You don't have physical evidence. You have a young girl as the defendant. You have the death penalty. That might have been a mistake," Roger said. "You put a lot of pressure on a jury when you seek the death penalty."

Roger said he prosecuted Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy in the death of one-time Las Vegas casino boss Ted Binon in 1998. He said they made a decision not to seek the death penalty in that case because Murphy was a young woman.

"You do that, you're raising the bar in the minds of jurors," Roger said.

Roger also noted the defense attorneys were high-profile and media-savvy. Linda Kenney-Baden, the wife of famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who testified in the Binion case, was one of Anthony's attorneys. "They are very media-friendly."

Television's modern crime dramas might have affected jurors as well. "I speculate the jurors were not comfortable with the scientific details," said Chip Siegel, a former prosecutor now in private practice in Las Vegas. He did not watch the case closely.

Indeed, the problem of juries wanting the state to prove cases scientifically has become so pervasive that the problem has been dubbed the "CSI" effect, a reference to the "Crime Scene Investigation" shows on television.

"Everything I read was that defense attorneys had a difficult time with the case," Siegel said. "The jurors have been seasoned on all the 'CSI' shows. As science has entered the courtroom and television shows all end with the case being solved by science, all of this puts pressure on forensic experts."

While the circumstantial evidence against Anthony was significant, there was no physical evidence to link her to the crime. "I remember when my basic Power Point presentations mesmerized juries," Siegel said. "Now you have juries with preconceived ideas. They believe the state has to preserve forensic evidence."

Susan Burke has defended murder suspects for more than 25 years. "It would appear (prosecutors) failed to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," said the veteran Las Vegas lawyer, who also said she hadn't followed the case closely.

Burke said defense attorneys did a good job poking holes in what little forensic evidence the state presented.

But she also knows why so many people are upset with the verdict. "This was a very troubling case. Anytime a child is murdered, there is a very strong feeling that somebody has to pay for the crime."

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

Reader's comments from LVRJ.COM and Facebook

Valerie Melene DeJohnette I think this is a true miscarriage of justice - Something happened to that little girl and no one is talking. The parents, Casey, and everything is so unbelievable - whats true, whats not. I believe she did kill her daughter, and only GOD ...and her know what really happened. Sadly - beyond a reasonable doubt just didnt hold enough to convict her. I do believe child endangerment applied, and aggravated manslaughter. She lied about her daughters whereabouts, and who she gave her daughter to . She is irresponsible and a pathological liar. No doubt.

Rebecca Zobell Either way this verdict is completely unacceptable. She didn't even get the child neglect charge, and NO ONE should get away with that at least with what she did, lying to the police and not even reporting her missing for a FULL MONTH. She is guilty, and if the law doesn't get her , God will.

T.G. wrote on July 05, 2011 03:17 PM: Lesson #1- If you kill someone, simply hide the body well enough that it will have time to decompose properly. Lesson #2- If you abuse your kids, simply lie about it. If nobody actually saw you do it, how can they convict you? They found her childs bones and still couldn't find her guilty. Lesson #3- Jurors are idiots and we need to change the system. Jurors should have to pass an IQ test.

JudgePeterHill wrote on July 05, 2011 03:22 PM: The jury did the difficult but right thing in this case: "If you're 90% certain the defendant is guilty you must acquit." (F. Lee Bailey) In 1986, I ran for public office in Kansas and the death penalty was an issue in the elections. The strongest con argument was a case from around 1904: A man was convicted of murder and put to death . He left behind a widow and 3 young daughters. Nobody would help the family through times of poverty "They're the family of a killer, let them suffer." Guess what? Four years after he was executed for murder, his alleged victim was discovered living in a remote town 400 miles away. You must have proof BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that the defendant is guilty before you can convict. This Kansas case illustrated the problem with Democracy (as opposed to a Republic): it is mob rule. "She's guilty, throw her to the lions!" She needs a fair trial in Court, not a verdict from public opinion.

Green Dragon Regular wrote on July 05, 2011 04:20 PM: @T.G.- The only real lesson for you is in JudgePeterHill's post. How do you make a case for murder if you don't know what caused death? It's better if twenty guilty men go free than if one innocent man is put to death.

Sue Fitch Stoddard The jury deliberated a whole 10 hours. How could they have gone through a month's worth of testimony that fast? I was on a medical malpractice jury and it took us that long to review everything. And that case lasted 7 days!

MJ Langhart It was the correct decision. In the court of opinion u could find her guilty, but in a court of law, not. The prosecution simply couldn't prove she killed her daughter. We all know she did, but Reasonable doubt was key!
 

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