Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The lessons to be learned from the Casey Anthony verdict

The banality of our lives

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 4:53 PM

During the early morning hours of June 29, a Charleston police officer discovered TwitPic founder Noah Everett walking around half-naked on Daniel Island, weaving in and out of sprinklers. Understandably, the officer decided to investigate.

Not long after, Everett found himself in the back of a police car. And then he did what apparently comes naturally to him: he tweeted a shot from inside the car and wrote, "Getting arrested ... in the back of a cop car now."

And he followed it up with "I guess you can't walk down your own street half naked ... who knew — I got a free ride home by the nice police officer."

The next morning, the news of Everett's arrest was all the buzz, with not only The Post and Courier running a story, but several national media outlets as well. The P&C even offered a theory as to why Everett was walking the streets of Daniel Island well past the midnight hour: he was down in the dumps.

According to Charleston Police Department Public Information Officer Charles Francis, "He said he was depressed because he'd seen his ex-girlfriend with another guy."

How embarrassing.

After the news became known, the boy who tweeted wolf pointed his finger at the party responsible for broadcasting his backseat detour to the rest of the world — the media. He tweeted that it "Must be a slow news day."

Eventually, Everett seemed to realize that the media wasn't entirely to blame. After all, he alone alerted his tweeps to his brush with the po-po: "Lesson learned: watch what you tweet."

Speaking of learning a lesson or two, I learned a few this week about the sad state of our judicial system and the equally sad state of cable news.

As you all know, Casey Anthony was found not guilty. And like many of you, I just can't seem to understand why. It's really quite mind-boggling. But like I said, I've learned something here.

1. What's breaking news at 1:45 in the afternoon is still breaking news at 8 at night. And the next day, it's no longer "breaking news"; it's been downgraded to big news, instead of, oh let's say, old news.

2. Pundits are never wrong. Ever. Last week, they proclaimed that Jose Baez was an incompetent maroon; this week, they say he's a fucking genius. Last week, they were convinced that Casey would be found guilty of murdering her daughter. Now, they knew all along that the prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony had killed her daughter.

3. CSI, SVU, and all the other police procedurals have caused juries to expect absolutely definitive DNA proof linking the killer to the victim every single time. They have forgotten that, yes, you can convict someone based on circumstantial evidence. And in the case of Casey Anthony, the circumstantial evidence was about as strong as it gets. Don't make me list it all out, because if I did, you would have to click to the next page before I even got to point No. 4.

4. Juries expect every murder case to come with an out-of-left field plot twist. In this case, based on what some of the alternate jurors have said, they believe that George Anthony killed Cayle, despite the fact that the defense did not offer a shred of evidence linking him to the crime. People don't think logically; they think narratively. And so, they go with the story that most mimics the gripping and guess-happy whodunits they consume on a daily basis, week after week, month after month, year after year. For them, it was easier to believe a convoluted story in which George Anthony raped his daughter Casey, Casey was sexual molested by her brother Lee, and she was so frightened of her father that she willingly joined with him to cover up the accidental death of her daughter because ... oh, I don't know ... but I'm sure it makes for a gripping yarn. A real page turner. Like as good as Patricia Cornwell's early Scarpetta novels, not her later hackneyed crap.

Now I'll be the first to admit that the truth can be stranger than fiction. There are plenty of weird people out there doing really weird things. But more often than not, the truth is an unoriginal bore. It's a story we've all heard before, with only slight variations to mask the otherwise banal nature of our lives.

But to admit that is perhaps too much for many of us. For to do so is to spend the rest of our days wandering the soulless, prefab streets of Daniel Island, half-naked and depressed.

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