July 5th, 2011
03:46 PM ET

Letters to the President: #897 'The verdict'

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.

Related: Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder

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.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Tim Gibson

    So, it is normal behavior now when a child has "vanished" from a home and the person who is proven to lie about it, party like it was 1999 to borrow a phrase, act as if she is a free spirit and innocent of any crimes other than the lies she told to police.

    Our sytem of justice is as broken as our political leadership roles are broken and if this is the new norm we are headed over a cliff full steam ahead.

    July 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  2. vanessa

    the men and women of the prosecutors office in the casy anthony case, the police, all investigators, the people who searched ,and anyone who was involved in this case, God Bless You All. the people who have watched this case, need to resist her ability to make any money for this MONSTER. WE know the TRUTH. and she will have to fae her maker in this case. A lie will not get her out of that. I pray that the baby in this caes will rest in peace and will visit her mothers mind each and everyday. I am sure that alot of people feel the same way. I wonder if casy will be welcom in the home of her father? I wonder if her parents will be filing a wronful death suit against their daughter?

    July 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  3. Ed - Sidney, OH

    I was FLABERGASTED! at the "Not Guilty" verdict. If it was ME that was being tried, I would of been found "Guilty" in ten minutes! Now a question I have is IF she wites a book, move, etc. Will money go back to tax payers, police dept, etc.? If not it should.

    July 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm |