Not all matters can be resolved in courtroom

Freedom New Mexico

Little Caylee Anthony’s cherubic face will haunt some of us for a long time. There’s nothing more tragic or riveting than the unexplained death of a child, and we all wish such tragedies could be neatly resolved with justice served. Now that the dust has almost settled on the Casey Anthony case, the broader implications merit some reflection.

Anthony will be released this month. People are saying justice was not served — again. It’s the Simpson verdict, part deux. The jury got it wrong, critics say.

Our justice system is the most fair, the most respected in the world. We know that. Criminal justice systems around the globe are either common, civil, religious or socialist.

Imagine a justice system controlled by a church. Or imagine facing charges in Italy, where courts make mockery of the presumption of innocence. Many Americans recently watched this unfold during the Amanda Knox murder trial.

We’ve heard horror stories about the cruelties of Islamic law. Any legal system that punishes thoughts as blasphemy is so different from our own that we cannot grasp the rationale behind it.

In countries such as Pakistan, the laws seem almost barbaric — especially in their treatment of women. In China, there is no concept of a “right to remain silent.” Suspects must answer all questions put to them in an interrogation or face the possibility of torture. Just recently, more than a hundred human rights lawyers, activists, writers and artists have been arrested or prosecuted in China.

Protection of individual rights is the hallmark of America’s legal system. Suspects are read their Miranda rights, have the right to remain silent and a right to a fair trial, and are presumed innocent until proved guilty. That last tenet is what many forget when a jury delivers an unexpected or unpopular verdict. Our system has safeguards for the innocent and the guilty.

Public opinion is not a court of law. Yes, Casey Anthony seemed guilty. Her propensity to smile in court didn’t help, nor did the fact that she is an admitted liar and a person of questionable integrity. Parts of her life seem too dysfunctional to be real, so of course many deemed her guilty. But the American justice system demands a little more before it convicts someone. All the media hoopla, all the dysfunctional family details and gut feelings do not matter. A jury needs hard evidence that convinces its members of guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Anthony’s peers on the jury felt they did not have that. Reasonable doubt means a jury must acquit. It is a crucial part of the American judicial process that we all need to remember. So when an O.J. Simpson or a Robert Blake walks from a courtroom unscathed, we may cringe or even scream. But the system has not failed, and any alternatives are far worse.

Maintaining freedom can be ugly. That means we cannot resolve every horrible act down at the courthouse.