I’ve held back from commenting on the Casey Anthony trial, fearing that the jury would get vilified if it didn’t render the “correct” verdict. Finding Anthony not guilty on the major charges did, indeed, bring a hailstorm of criticism. One of the most egregious stories in this theme was a USA Today poll that showed two-thirds of Americans think Anthony “definitely or probably murdered her daughter.”
After a few minutes of digging, I lost interest in finding the breakdown in those numbers, since thinking a criminal defendant is “probably” guilty means what exactly? In the courtroom, it means voting with the jury in this case, which found her not guilty but (as some jurors have said) still has members who think she “probably” committed the crime.
It was nice to see some thought given to how this would affect the jurors. Again, the focus of this blog is on the juror experience of service, and at least some reportage acknowledged that jurors might suffer stress as a result of this exceptional trial. It bears repeating that few jurors experience what these citizens went through; in fact, their names have been withheld indefinitely out of fear they’ll be harassed. As one St. Petersburg Times story recounts, there’s little sympathy for the juror-citizens who gave up a chunk of their lives for this trial:
After the not-guilty verdict on July 5, Russ Huekler, an alternate juror in the Casey Anthony murder trial, was hit with hundreds of insulting letters, e-mails, Facebook posts and phone calls from strangers calling him “ignorant” and “scum.”
Then the death threat arrived.
All that anger aimed at him, even though Huekler did not actually participate in deliberations. But he had voiced support on TV for the jurors who did — many of whom are coping with experiences similar to Huekler’s in the trial’s aftermath.
Maybe this just extends the civic impact of jury service: This way, citizens get to learn what it’s like not only to make tough decisions but also to be reviled by the public. Ah, democracy.