Squawking Heads

One website that I visit almost every day is CNN Justice.  It’s a comprehensive rundown of the current top crime stories  in the US.  In one section stories are broken down by what part of the country they happened in: East, Central, or West.  I’ve been reading this site for a couple of years now, and more often than not, the weirdest and sickest crimes take place in the East and specifically northern Florida.  If I knew nothing about the Casey Anthony case, and you told me the details without giving me the location, I would  guess it had probably happened in Florida.

The trial is over, and the jury has spoken, acquitting her of the most serious crimes leveled against her.  She walked on murder one and will spend just one additional week in jail to satisfy her sentence on the lesser charges of lying to the police.  Many people are bat-guano outraged, and they’re lashing out at everyone–the jury, the defense team, the prosecution, and anyone who correctly points out that this is how the American legal system works and the prosecution simply did not prove their case.  As much as the jury might have wanted to convict Casey Anthony, they couldn’t because the evidence just wasn’t there.

Fingers of blame are pointing everywhere except in the direction where culpability rests, the Squawking Heads.  No sooner was little Caylee’s body found than the Squawking Heads took to the airwaves and loudly proclaimed Casey Anthony guilty of being  the ultimate bad mother, deciding she should fry for her sins.  Caylee and Casey became the grist for their vitriol mills for years.

It was a case made to order for over-the-top ratings. Heinous crimes are committed against children every day of the week, but Caylee was white and cute, and Casey was easily portrayed as a white-trash slut.  If they had been black or Hispanic, this case would have gotten a week’s worth of media attention, tops. Instead it became a national obsession.  Natalee Holloway’s disappearance had had it’s run, and interest in Amanda Knox’s trial in Italy was petering out.  The Squawking Heads needed another white girl, and the Anthonys were tailor-made for prime time.  Can a victim be any more innocent than a two-year-old?  Can a villain be any easier to despise than a young hard-partying, pants-on-fire mother?  And talk about a dysfunctional family.  This case had everything.  It was a ratings bonanza for the Squawking Heads, and they didn’t even have to work that hard.  Every micro-development in the case–what Casey said or didn’t say, how she looked in court, what she wore–triggered a fresh avalanche of fire-and-brimstone condemnation.

The Orange County District Attorney is an elected office.  I have to wonder if the prosecution’s decision to charge Casey with everything but the kitchen sink was prompted by the legions of squawking fans inflamed by the Squawking Heads.  These people–all potential voters–wanted Casey’s head on a pike, but the DA’s Office just didn’t have the forensic evidence to prove premeditated murder.  But that didn’t matter.  Better to throw the book at her and have the jury “fail” to convict than to win a case on lesser charges that wouldn’t warrant the death penalty or put her away for life.  Thanks to the media frenzy, the fans couldn’t tolerate the thought of “evil” Casey seeing freedom at some time in the far future when she was in late middle age.  Voters would have seen that as a failure and voted their displeasure.

The facts surrounding Caylee’s death will probably never come to light, and Casey will never be tried for murder again.  But the jury did its job and did it admirably.  If anyone should take the blame for this debacle, it should be the Squawking Heads.  They screeched from the rooftops, provoked a mob mentality, and encouraged deliberate ignorance of fact and law.  They turned this case into a circus from Day One.  But this time the tent burned to the ground and no one enjoyed the spectacle.

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