Anthony Case and Our Courts

Based on my limited knowledge of the Anthony case, I agree with Alan Dershowitz’s take in today’s Wall Street Journal.

A criminal trial is neither a whodunit nor a multiple choice test. It is not even a criminal investigation to determine who among various possible suspects might be responsible for a terrible tragedy. In a murder trial, the state, with all of its power, accuses an individual of being the perpetrator of a dastardly act against a victim. The state must prove that accusation by admissible evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even if it is “likely” or “probable” that a defendant committed the murder, he must be acquitted, because neither likely nor probable satisfies the daunting standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, a legally proper result—acquittal in such a case—may not be the same as a morally just result. In such a case, justice has not been done to the victim, but the law has prevailed.

Few appear to be pleased with the outcome of the trial.  But the reasons for displeasure are different.

For those who agree with Dershowitz, the displeasure stems from the lack of hard evidence to prove the state’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.  But, they understand that the reasonable doubt standard is there to protect all of us from a potentially oppressive state.

For those who believe the purpose of the courts is to wield moral justice (i.e. what we emotionally feel ought to be done), the Anthony verdict is displeasing because it doesn’t appear to deliver that moral justice.

Why this horrible tragedy has reached the fever pitch for the moment over all the other horrible tragedies out there is beyond me.  But, maybe it will serve to educate some folks on the true purpose and valid limitations of our courts.

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