Casey Anthony was sentenced to four years with credit for time served and time off for good behavior, and is expected to be released before the end of this month. For what she did (whatever she did, whether premeditated homicide or accident), it isn’t nearly enough. Still, given the verdict, it was the best that could be expected. And given the general animosity toward Anthony, freedom will be no picnic.
If anyone is wondering why I’m dithering on what she did, it’s because I didn’t follow the case obsessively. I haven’t seen all 400 pieces of evidence that the jury saw. I know that I’ve seen some evidence that they weren’t allowed to see, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what evidence that was. It’s my understanding that most, if not all, of the evidence was circumstantial. I’ve heard only bits and pieces of closing arguments (I don’t care about the opening arguments; I know that statements were made that were not backed up by evidence or testimony). The jury apparently decided that there was reasonable doubt, probably because of the lack of cause of death. At least two jurors and an alternate have made public statements that suggest that they were only intermittently logical in their analysis of the evidence, but that’s two jurors out of twelve, plus an alternate. Other jurors who have not come forward yet (if ever) may have had superior reasoning skills, and it’s possible that the jurors who have come forward think better than they speak.
So Caylee Anthony doesn’t get justice. She isn’t the first beautiful child whose death remains unexplained and unavenged, and she won’t be the last. She isn’t in a better place, unless you consider death a better place than being raised by Casey Anthony. Promises of heaven (or hell, for that matter) are no real comfort. They’re just more lies.
As unsatisfying as the verdict and sentence are, as unsavory as Casey Anthony is, as unhelpful as religious platitudes are, the atmosphere outside the court was shameful and scary. All the crowds needed were torches and pitchforks. Justice is not about revenge, and it’s not about popular demand. This isn’t the justice system’s version of “America’s Got Talent” (“America’s Got Murder”?). And it isn’t a Hollywood movie, requiring a saccharine sweet happy ending.
As an atheist, I watched the crowd with concern. If I am ever the victim of a crime, will my atheism be used to color public perception of my character? What if I am ever accused of a crime? Nancy Grace might not care about my lack of religion, but the pundits on a particular conservative network have shown no conscience when it comes to demonizing the faithless. Do members of the most reviled minority in the US really have a shot at justice? What about in the court of public opinion?