Reporter's Note: President Obama has more serious matters to attend to than one trial. So do the rest of us.
Dear Mr. President,
Having covered a fair number of criminal trials over the years, including some of the biggest in our nation’s history, I long ago stopped trying to predict what juries will do. So when the not guilty verdict came out in the Casey Anthony trial this afternoon, while I must confess I was a bit surprised, I was not astonished.
I realize that a lot of Americans were convinced that she had to be guilty. They read the headlines from each day’s testimony, they looked at her pattern of behavior after her daughter disappeared, and they looked over and over again at those pictures of the little girl before she was killed…and they wanted justice.
Often, however, when we talk about justice, we mean principally that the guilty should be punished. Justice is about more than that. Sometimes it is about the innocent going free. Sometimes it is about the courts admitting what can not be proven. And sometimes it is about recognizing that we have to trust our jury system even if we don’t always agree with what juries decide.
As a journalist, I have been asked many times about trials that produced unexpected acquittals. People will pull me aside at parties, and in a conspiratorial whisper ask, “Did he do it?”
And my response is always something along these lines, “I can tell you what the evidence shows. I can analyze that evidence and point out where it leans against the accused and where it leans in their favor. You may surmise from that information that the decision was right or wrong. But the only people who can truly answer your question sat in the jury box. And their answer was their verdict. We have to have faith in that, because it is a cornerstone of our society, our justice system, and our government.”
That does not always satisfy folks. Neither do a lot of verdicts. But that is the difference between justice as we would have it, and the justice that we have. The justice we have is imperfect, but then so are we.
Anyway, on to other business: How are you? Was your Fourth nice? I was only a few blocks from your house watching the fireworks and thought of stopping by, but it was late, so maybe next time.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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