(two posts in a ROW! Matt’s going to die of shock)
I was a bit too young to remember much about the O.J. Simpson murder trial, though my one memory of it was my mom swearing at the television when he got off (the first time I’d ever heard her swear). I hadn’t been following the Casey Anthony case until the internet exploded with rage at the “not guilty” verdict. I’ve seen essays of outrage on justice being thwarted, pictures of her face next to O.J.’s followed by questions about what our country is coming to and how anyone could consider themselves safe, and pictures of her daughter, with sentimental messages of someday hoping for justice for her.
So when I saw this article on the Wall Street Journal, with the headline reading: “Casey Anthony: The System Worked”, I was intrigued. What followed was a thoughtful and interesting piece on why we do murder trials the way we do, and what “not guilty” really means.
The whole article is really worth reading, but the part that stood out to me the most was this:
“For thousands of years, Western society has insisted that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for one innocent defendant to be wrongly convicted. This daunting standard finds its roots in the biblical story of Abraham’s argument with God about the sinners of Sodom.
Abraham admonishes God for planning to sweep away the innocent along with the guilty and asks Him whether it would be right to condemn the sinners of Sodom if there were 10 or more righteous people among them. God agrees and reassures Abraham that he would spare the city if there were 10 righteous. From this compelling account, the legal standard has emerged.
That is why a criminal trial is not a search for truth. Scientists search for truth. Philosophers search for morality. A criminal trial searches for only one result: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The author goes on to explain what undeniable evidence must look like and why we as a nation with a strong and powerful government have decided that everyone, no matter how powerless, or insane, or “obviously” guilty must be considered innocent until we can absolutely prove them wrong.
It’s an insightful article, and one that made me ultimately grateful for the system we have. It is by no means perfect, but if we are going to err, it seems that we’re erring on the right side.