In this special edition of Frontpage Symposium, we are joined by a distinguished panel to discuss the Casey Anthony verdict. Our guests today are:
Alan Dershowitz, the renowned criminal and civil liberties lawyer.
Ben Shapiro, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and a practicing attorney in Los Angeles. He summered at the Los Angeles County District Attorney Major Crimes Division during law school. He is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the author of the new book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV.
Rob Taylor, a conservative blogger who writes about crime, culture and politics. His website is Greenville Dragnet.
William L. Anderson, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute who also teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. He is a consultant with American Economic Services.
FP: Alan Dershowitz, Ben Shapiro, Rob Taylor and William Anderson, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.
William Anderson, let us begin with you. What did you think of the verdict?
Anderson: Well, obviously it is very unpopular, but it also is the right verdict, given the evidence that the prosecution put forth. There also is another very unsettling thing that happened that further confirms to me the rightness of the verdict.
The New York Times is reporting that the software expert whose software at first indicated that Casey Anthony had researched “chloroform” 84 times found a glitch in the program and realized that she had gone to that site only one time. He notified the prosecution and police, AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING. In other words, the prosecution lied to jurors.
To me, when a prosecutor lies, that goes to the heart of the system. Whether or not Casey Anthony was responsible for the death of her child is one thing; that does not go to the heart of a society and its laws. Indeed, we have laws against murder.
However, when prosecutors lie in court and judges enable them and state bars refuse to discipline or disbar them for such acts, that goes to the very heart of our justice system. That declares that the entire system is a lie. And a system in which lying by authorities is encouraged is not a justice system, but rather an Injustice system.
FP: But wait a minute Mr. Anderson, aside from what you raise, the undeniable facts of the case are before us: a mother says she discovered her child dead after she drowned in the pool. Yet she does not dial 911. Instead, she duct tapes Caylee’s mouth and nose and hides her body in the trunk of her car for days, before dumping her in plastic bags in the woods. But what is the need of hiding the body if it was an accident? And why duct tape a child’s nose and mouth if the child has already died from drowning? Casey subsequently goes out to party for a month and lies throughout the whole time where Caylee is.
This doesn’t make an impression on you?
Anderson: Absolutely. I never have said that I believe Casey Anthony is innocent. However, there is a difference between believing someone might have had something to do with the child’s death and actually having killed her. Nonetheless, I don’t think the prosecution proved its case. Furthermore, keep in mind that prosecutors went all out to have the woman executed, yet they had NO proof that there was a first-degree murder. None. And we are supposed to have someone put to death when we don’t have evidence that they committed the crime that would bring an execution?
Perhaps there could have been a manslaughter conviction, but if the prosecution wanted to charge her with manslaughter, then they should have done it. Perhaps the jurors would have been more amenable to that verdict had manslaughter been the charge on the books. However, the prosecutors wanted blood, Nancy Grace wanted blood, and the Usual Suspects wanted blood, and the jurors were not going to give that to them, and I don’t blame them.
When a child dies, we want an explanation and we want someone to be punished. Yet, many innocent people have been convicted of killing a child when there were other causes, and many more have been convicted in cases of false accusation of child molestation. Americans seem to lose perspective when children are involved, and while I understand that, having five of my own children (actually four, but we are in the middle of an adoption and I consider this girl to be our own), I hope that we also can keep perspective.
I do not believe that we need to run over the cliff with Nancy Grace. The idea that such a despicable and dishonest person should be seen as the driving force behind this lynch mob mentality really does bother me.
FP: Rob Taylor, what do you make of William Anderson’s perspective?
Taylor: There are three things wrong with Mr. Anderson’s analysis and I’ll try to keep this brief but I think these points are important.
The first thing I want to point out is that Mr. Anderson illustrates the “CSI effect” in his analysis. While being critical of television coverage of crime Mr. Anderson promotes expectations of evidence that aren’t based in reality. A drug user’s child turns up missing, she blames a person who police prove never met her or the child, then the body of the child is found with duct tape on the skull. Any rational person can figure this one out (attempting to frame someone is clear consciousness of guilt) but Americans have been taught to think that science can prove someone’s guilt or innocence to a 100% certainty. This is simply untrue. In most crimes there is no smoking gun, but we think there always is thanks to how forensic science is portrayed in the media. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” shouldn’t mean no doubt, just that reasonable people would conclude guilt.
Secondly, I take issue with the kind of Infowarsian analysis Mr. Anderson taps into when he claims the prosecution lied about the web searches and thus, the whole system is corrupt. Even when individuals act badly you can’t say an organization as a whole is corrupt. In this instance we’re expected to take the word of some guy who made claims designed to get the name of his software company in the news over the word of the prosecution. The eagerness to believe that law enforcement is universally corrupt and out to oppress innocent people is the product of an incredibly lucrative Internet culture that trades on people’s paranoia.
When Mr. Anderson says “more and more” people are being falsely accused of child abuse, he’s repeating another myth that has been propagated on the Internet. False reports for child molestation or abuse happen at around the same rate as any other crime – 3% or so. In 2010 the California Department of Corrections released a report showing that sex offenders released from prison had a 67% recidivism rate within three years; felons in general had a 75% rate. If “more and more” people are being falsely accused of crimes recidivism would be much lower, no?
The idea that Casey Anthony was just another victim of a fascistic police state will drive a lot traffic and sell a lot of ad space but it’s simply not true and the fact that we entertain such sinister piffle, if I may steal a phrase from Christopher Hitchens, is a stark reminder of the moral and intellectual decline of our nation.
Thirdly, I am concerned by who in this story Mr. Anderson considers to be the villain. Nancy Grace didn’t murder Caylee Anthony, she didn’t throw her body in the swamp and she didn’t try to frame a random woman for kidnapping and murder. Yet, Grace is despicable and dishonest?
There was a People magazine article recently that described Casey Anthony fans and groupies sending her gifts while she was in prison. As a crime blogger I get my fair share of hate mail from people of this sort who claim a child molester was “seduced” by the victim or a wife beater was actually being victimized by a lying woman. For many people in our society, criminals are always the sympathetic figure and everyone else is the bad guy. This sort of morally backward thinking encourages criminality and is largely responsible for cases like Caylee Anthony.
Even if you think Casey Anthony didn’t murder her child, she didn’t report the child missing for a month. She tried to frame an innocent woman for the crime. She is the despicable and dishonest one in this story and that someone as intelligent as William Anderson can’t see that makes me incredibly uncomfortable with where our culture is headed.
FP: Mr. Taylor, I am not sure that Mr. Anderson is defending Casey Anthony as a human being. He is not saying that she is not despicable and dishonest. And in terms of what we are debating, it doesn’t really matter if he thinks that or not or whether we think that or not. What matters, as Mr. Anderson emphasizes, is that the prosecution did not prove its case and to charge someone with first degree murder and to have a jury convict and sentence a woman to death – when there is no solid proof that there was a first-degree murder – is problematic. Right?
Taylor: I wasn’t implying that Mr. Anderson does or doesn’t support Casey Anthony, only that his analysis demonizes commentators while suggesting that the system is corrupt for even bringing the case. The system is not corrupt and the idea of “solid proof” is a myth. A child is dead and her mother avoided reporting her disappearance, then tried to frame someone else. Before juries were populated with armchair forensics experts this would have been an open and shut case.
Now, you may think the prosecution overcharged on this, which may well be true, but how does that translate into an indictment of our entire system? How do we go from the prosecution dropping the ball to some crime reporter on television being despicable and Casey Anthony being the victim of a corrupt system? The prosecution didn’t plan this case out as well as they should have, but I refuse to accept the idea that there’s something wrong with charging her with murder instead of something less serious. Still, the legal issues are best worked out in court, the reaction to this is a moral issue that speaks to where we are as a culture.
The disregard many people have for the victim, for Justice in the philosophical sense and for the truth is what troubles me here. The legal system worked – Anthony had a fair trial in front of a jury of her peers. That doesn’t mean Justice has been served. Caylee Anthony was thrown out like garbage, found with duct tape on her remains. We all know why people duct tape the mouths of children shut. We know why some drugged out party girl doesn’t report her child missing. We know that Casey Anthony deserves the public scorn and shaming she got from these much maligned TV talking heads.
So why are we as a society pretending that everyone else is the villain? Even if Casey didn’t participate in her daughter’s disappearance and murder, her own story is that she left her daughter with the people who molested her as a child. Then she tried to frame an innocent woman for her daughter’s disappearance and death and desecrated her own daughter’s corpse. How exactly is anyone but this fiend despicable?
We live in a society that admires criminality and depravity and has been taught by decades of cultural leftism to hate and distrust law enforcement and criminal justice. That’s why Anthony got off, that’s why people so easily believe allegations of corruption against any prosecutor or police officer, and that’s why people hate a television personality who makes a living criticizing degeneracy.
The prosecution showed that reasonable people could agree that Anthony was involved in the homicide of her daughter. It was a circumstantial case no different than dozens of other cases, some of which are tried with no bodies at all. Was it wise to make it a death penalty case? Maybe not – I’m not a lawyer. Was it right to try to get justice for the child? I say yes, of course.
The prosecution speaks for the murdered victim in these cases. Every murdered child cries out for Justice to be done. To attack the people who (we hope) did their best to make sure someone pays for horrible crimes is wrong. To attack commentators who speak out about crime is also wrong. The prosecution failed, and that’s too bad. But they aren’t the bad guys and neither is Nancy Grace. The mother of a child who had her supposed molesters babysit her daughter then spent a month covering up the child’s disappearance is the bad guy here. The fact that that isn’t conventional wisdom is the basis for any critique I have about the case.
I hope the prosecution did their best, I think they were handed a bad break with the condition of the body and they clearly underestimated Anthony’s defense team. I hope they learn from this and the next time this happens I hope they fight just as hard for the victim.
FP: Alan Dershowitz?
Dershowitz: I am prepared to believe that Casey Anthony is an example of the age old adage that it is better for 10 guilty to go free than for one innocent to be wrongly convicted. When a guilty person goes free because of doubt, the system has worked. When an innocent person is convicted in a doubtful case, the system has failed.
In this case, there is an added element: some of the doubt may have been created by the inactions and actions of Casey Anthony, in failing to report her missing child and in lying to the police. The system does not work when doubt is deliberately created by the defendant. That’s why we have crimes such as obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence—crimes of which Casey Anthony was clearly guilty.
But as William Anderson has pointed out, there may have been a much more serious obstruction of justice on the part of prosecutors. If The New York Times account is correct (July 16, 2011), then the police and prosecutors in this case should be subject to criminal investigation and bar association inquiry regarding their conduct. Here is what the Times has reported:
Assertions by the prosecution that Casey Anthony conducted extensive computer searches on the word “chloroform” were based on inaccurate data, a software designer who testified at the trial said Monday.
The designer, John Bradley, said Ms. Anthony had visited what the prosecution said was a crucial Web site only once, not 84 times, as prosecutors had asserted. He came to that conclusion after redesigning his software, and immediately alerted prosecutors and the police about the mistake, he said.
The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.
According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term “chloroform” was searched once through Google.
The Google search then led to a Web site, sci-spot.com, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had used the software to validate its finding that Ms. Anthony had searched for information about chloroform 84 times, a conclusion that Mr. Bradley says turned out to be wrong. Mr. Bradley said he immediately alerted a prosecutor, Linda Drane Burdick, and Sgt. Kevin Stenger of the Sheriff’s Office in late June through e-mail and by telephone to tell them of his new findings. Mr. Bradley said he conducted a second analysis after discovering discrepancies that were never brought to his attention by prosecutors or the police.
Mr. Bradley’s findings were not presented to the jury and the record was never corrected, he said. Prosecutors are required to reveal all information that is exculpatory to the defense.
“I gave the police everything they needed to present a new report,” Mr. Bradley said. “I did the work myself and copied out the entire database in a spreadsheet to make sure there was no issue of accessibility to the data.”
Mr. Bradley, chief executive of Siquest, a Canadian company, said he even volunteered to fly to Orlando at his own expense to show them the findings.
To complicate matters even further, a lawyer representing Bradley has now stated that:
“There have been recent erroneous media reports about Mr. Bradley’s handling of a discrepancy relating to the number of searches regarding the search term ‘chloroform,’” said Bradley attorney Gregory W. Mair in a statement released Wednesday morning. “…Mr. Bradley denies making any comments that either determined and/or implied any wrongdoing on behalf of the prosecutor’s office.”
Someone isn’t telling the truth, and this discrepancy must be aggressively pursued by an independent investigator.
Unfortunately, prosecutorial and police misconduct of the kind described in The New York Times article is all too common. Several years ago my brother and I appealed a first degree murder case in Florida in which the defendant was one vote away from being executed. In that case, the State Attorney willfully suppressed exculpatory evidence—evidence that ultimately proved our client’s innocence. After our client was released, my brother filed a Bar complaint against the State Attorney only to be told that the Bar had no jurisdiction over elected State Attorneys and that his very act of filing a complaint constituted unethical behavior.
Prosecutorial and police misconduct are corrosive to our system of justice. Failure to uncover and aggressively pursue such misconduct, which is endemic in our justice system, is even more corrosive.
Ultimately, it is far more important to determine whether the prosecutor in this case willfully provided false evidence to the jury than it is to decide whether a particular criminal did or did not commit a particular crime, even one as heinous as that alleged in the Anthony case.
Shapiro: Let’s take this piece by piece. Was Casey Anthony guilty of killing her child? You would have to be willfully blind to argue that she wasn’t. Was this proven beyond a reasonable doubt? To me, yes, it was. I do not see a plausible alternative explanation of any sort. I strenuously disagree with Professor Anderson that this was the “right verdict, given the evidence that the prosecution put forth.” The evidence put forth was clear and convincing, notwithstanding the post facto questions about how many times the word “chloroform” was googled. To be clear, the jury was not aware of that controversy; as far as they knew, “chloroform” was googled 84 times. And they still acquitted her. So that issue is a separate one from whether the jury reached the right verdict, seeing as nobody on the jury could have questioned the evidence presented to them (and the fact that the defense did not question it, either).
I also disagree with Professor Anderson that it does not go to the heart of the system when an obvious child murderess walks free. This is not a question of comparable wrongs – the prosecution could have been mishandled, but Casey Anthony was certainly responsible for the murder of her child. It says that the entire system is a lie when O.J. Simpson walks free just as it says that the entire system is a lie when a prosecutor conceals evidence – or when, far more commonly, defense attorneys twist and obfuscate their way to acquittals for defendants who will go out to rape, kill, and steal again. Make no mistake: I believe there is no more pernicious legal saying than the one Professor Dershowitz (full disclosure: I took a class with him at Harvard Law) quotes here, usually attributed to Blackstone: “it is better for 10 guilty to go free than for one innocent to be wrongly convicted.” In point of fact, it is not better for ten guilty men to go free, depending on their crimes, than for one innocent to be wrongly convicted – if the ten guilty men go out and murder five people each, justice has not been served.
This maxim is one of the great non sequiturs of all time. Justice is not a choice between condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty. It is about establishing the most efficient way of convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent. That’s why when either of those objectives goes awry – when guilty people walk or when innocents go to prison – the system has been defeated. Let’s not pretend that when Casey Anthony walks, the system has worked, but when Dewey Bozella goes to prison, the system has failed. In both cases, the system has failed.
Unfortunately, our current system has a lot of work to do on both these scores. The biggest problem is the tenor of the debate about Anthony. Was the lawyer for the prosecution good? How about for the defense? Did ancillary players get short shrift from the prosecution? Did the defense pull red herrings out of its bag of tricks? The adversarial system does this on a routine basis, and in all the hubbub over competition, the main objective gets lost: to do justice. I’m an American exceptionalist, but I’ll say this: the European inquisitorial system has the right idea.
Now, to finish with Professor Anderson, this is not about Nancy Grace. This is about Anthony and the fact that she killed her daughter, dumped her in the woods, and went along her merry way for a month, lying to police the entire time.
As far as Mr. Taylor, I agree largely with what he says. I would only say that from the available evidence, I am not at all convinced that the prosecution overcharged here. You find a body with duct tape on it in the woods and mommy was lying for a month about it, you find corpse evidence from mommy’s trunk, you find mommy searching questionable terms on the computer … that spells premeditation to me. And I fully agree with Mr. Taylor that the entire prosecutorial system is not corrupt – if it is, it’s only to a fraction of the degree of the defense system, which routinely hides evidence and lies to juries, and which both Professors Anderson and Dershowitz seem to dismiss as part of the aphoristic throwaway that the guilty man needs to go free to protect the innocent.
The whole system is the problem. The defense cheats and lies, so some prosecutors cheat and lie. Defense calls lying witnesses and slanders police officers, so police testify. Defense wants acquittals; prosecutions want convictions. Nobody wants the truth. Adversarialism is not going to come to the truth. A search geared toward truth is the only thing that will do so.
Anderson: Mr. Shapiro already knows the truth, as does Mr. Taylor. Both have told us exactly what Casey Anthony did, and a trial should have been a mere formality and that since everyone already knew what Anthony did, the outcome should have been inevitable, if not pre-determined. As for the “CSI effect,” that is nonsense. First, I don’t watch CSI.
Second, from what I can tell, CSI wants us to believe that government investigators brilliantly investigate crimes, never making errors, and never falsely implicating innocent people. That smashes against reality, as the recent FBI crime lab and North Carolina crime lab scandals demonstrated how police framed innocent people, lost evidence, and were criminally incompetent. Somehow, I doubt that reality will find its way to CSI.
Let’s talk about Nancy Grace, since previous comments have defended her. Remember the Duke Lacrosse Case five years ago, the one in which a black, drug-addicted prostitute named Crystal Mangum accused three lacrosse players from Duke University of raping and beating her at a party? (Mangum recently was charged with murder for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend to death.)
No one was more accusatory of those players than Nancy Grace. When one guest reminded her of the presumption of innocence, she spat back, “Let’s move to Nazi Germany,” where a trial would be irrelevant. In other words, to Grace, presuming innocence – a bedrock of Anglo-American criminal law – is akin to creating a Roland Friesler-type court system. When she was a prosecutor in Georgia, she was cited by then-U.S. Appeals Court Justice Jeff Sessions (now a U.S. Senator from Alabama) for “playing fast-and-loose” with the facts in a case. It seems that Grace lied to jurors – in a case in which the defendant was found guilty, and the lies she told did not factor into the evidence that proved his guilt. In other words, she lied just because she could do it.
Nancy Grace also figures into a case involving a friend of mine, Tonya Craft. Some of you might remember that Craft – who was featured last year on the Today Show – was accused of molesting three young girls, including her daughter. The case took place in the judicial district where I lived for nearly 30 years in North Georgia, and I knew a number of people involved. Although the trial was a sham, she was acquitted as jurors angrily noted that prosecutors and witnesses lied throughout. Nancy Grace told Tonya that she was “guilty.” Yeah, Grace and her sidekick Wendy Murphy always look at the evidence. Right. With Grace, an accusation is the same as proof of guilt.
As for Mr. Taylor’s claim that only a tiny portion of molestation claims are false, that is not true. Since the passage of the Mondale Act in 1974 – Ground Zero for false abuse claims – molestation claims have skyrocketed, and so have false accusations. We remember the Amirault, the McMartin, Kerns County, and Little Rascals cases. Attorneys that specialize in these cases will tell you that all it takes is an accusation, and the conviction machinery goes to work. I read the transcripts of the interviews in the Craft case and will tell you that the Children’s Advocacy Center employees purposely asked leading questions, bullied children, and broke even CAC standards for interviewing young children.
Yes, the death of a young child is a tragedy, and so is sexual abuse. However, that does not give reason to railroad people just because it is convenient to do so and it makes us feel good.
Taylor: First, let me say that though I respect Alan Dershowitz, Mr. Shaprio is absolutely right in his analysis. The idea that it’s better for 10 guilty people to go free than one innocent person imprisoned is objectively wrong. As I pointed out before, a study of California felons showed that once released they had a 75% recidivism rate. If that number holds for our mythical 10 guilty people, that would mean we accept that seven or eight will almost immediately go out and kill, rape, steal, and abuse again.
Is that really what we as a society think is right?
Unlike Mr. Shapiro I believe that our justice system is the superior system in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we celebrate when a monster who abused and neglected her daughter, then tried to put an innocent woman in prison is able to beat her rap. As for the New York Times article Mr. Dershowitz points to as evidence we need to investigate the prosecutors, I find it hard to believe someone as intelligent as Mr. Dershowitz truly believes that. The Times has a history of printing lies and half-truths (Jayson Blair comes to mind) and I myself have been smeared by journalists who purposefully misquoted me to fit an agenda. The Village Voice ran an article that implied I was the web’s only bi-racial neo-Nazi using select quotes from an hour long interview I did. Is that article really evidence of my Nazism? Using a newspaper article as the basis for filing charges against anyone is simply silly.
To Mr. Anderson I would first say that he knows full well that the CSI effect is a cultural phenomenon and not reliant on each person watching a particular show. I understand he wouldn’t have time to watch CSI since he seems to spend most of his time cataloging Nancy Grace’s opinions.
I’m not sure why the Duke case or especially Crystal Mangum being black is important to this discussion though I am aware that such things do have particular significance at Lew Rockwell’s site. I will simply point out here that the accused in that case aren’t innocent. Innocent people don’t gangbang hookers, they don’t stiff hookers and they don’t hurl racial slurs at them. Had they been innocent boys minding their business they never would have had an unstable drug addict turning tricks at their party which led to the false rape allegations. Like Casey Anthony, their own criminality and immoral behavior led them to be the subject of public ridicule – as it should be.
Mr. Anderson goes on to claim false abuse reports have skyrocketed, while providing no evidence except noted frauds, most involving the Satanic Ritual Abuse scam. This is frankly disgusting. The Satanic Panic was the product of a conspiratorial culture that had far reach into government and media. Even at its height people had debunked much of it, by the way. This list of incidents he puts forward does not prove false reports have “skyrocketed” any more than a list of blogs I run would prove my blog running has skyrocketed.
But more importantly, how would this apply to the Anthony case? Even the jury convicted Anthony of lying about her child being missing and about the woman she falsely accused. It’s interesting Mr. Anderson has no sympathy for Zeniada Gonzalez in this story. She was actually falsely accused but there is little hyperbole on her behalf.
I would like to say I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Anderson thinks Casey Anthony was railroaded, but as I said before, this is how far our culture has devolved.
FP: Mr. Taylor, the Duke case is brought up and is important because it is a vital example of a rush to judgment and a false and inhuman rush to judgment. Crystal Mangum being black is important to this discussion because the rush to judgment was largely led by race-baiters who wanted to sacrifice the accused on the altar of their own racial agenda.
The accused were innocent of the crime they were accused of, that is the point. And “public ridicule” was not what they were a subject of, they were subject of being horribly vilified and smeared in the media and being accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Not only that but they were themselves victims of a persecution by a corrupt district attorney who nearly sent these innocent men to jail – and certainly ruined their reputations – for a crime they did not commit. It would be difficult to imagine a more flagrant and appalling perversion of justice.
Only the overwhelming evidence of their innocence, which had been deliberately covered up by a now-disgraced district attorney, saved them from prison, no thanks to the Nancy Graces of the world, who wanted those men jailed because of their own emotional vendettas or political agendas. Your implication is that these men deserved what they received because of their alleged behavior that created the context, but whatever the case is, and we know Crystal Mangum is a pathological liar, the men were innocent of the crime they were accused of – and people like Nancy Grace, and all the leftist feminists in Women’s Studies Departments (among others), wanted them to go to jail.
Mr. Taylor, justice is about people going to jail for committing crimes and having those crimes proven in the court of law; it is not about sending a person to jail because someone out there thinks he is a bad person. So the point here is that if you jail people not for crimes proven but for being allegedly immoral people, you would destroy the validity of America’s legal system. And if you want to jail men who hire strippers, if you had your way you would be criminalizing and imprisoning quite a significant portion of the U.S. population. But perhaps you would want it that way, although the impulse and psychology here escapes me.
In any case, whether the evidence was there to convict Casey Anthony, and I think the argument is there that there was, is another matter – and the primary matter here for our discussion.
Taylor: I disagree. The Duke case is completely irrelevant in this context and the hysterical hyperbole about an inhuman rush to judgement is liberal/left-libertarian grievance mongering. Three guys stiffed a hooker and got burned. If you rob a dealer you get shot. If you kick a rattlesnake you get bit. My point here is that though they weren’t guilty of rape they were not innocent. They hired two hookers (not strippers), didn’t get the color they wanted and when an argument ensued started calling them the “n” word. Justice prevailed – but they brought this on themselves when they hired and fought with two drug addled hookers. So let’s not pretend there is some deeper meaning here, and not pity degenerates whose degeneracy led them to be the victims of other degenerates.
And we’re are all sophisticated enough to understand that when a person refers to someone well known “as the Black stripper” there’s some bigotry going on. We don’t refer to Osama bin Laden as the Arab terrorist, we don’t refer to Casey Anthony as the White party girl and I won’t tell people I was debating some White guys in a symposium even if I think there may be a racial component to some of what’s being said.
The idea that people who have sex with and then try to short change hookers can be considered innocent is another illustration of my point about our society.
There’s nothing wrong with strippers and it’s nonsense to claim I said there was – but hiring hookers is illegal. Ripping them off because you wanted White ones is immoral. Getting screwed by people you screw is simply how life works.
Nancy Grace didn’t hire hookers to send to their house. She didn’t file those charges and she didn’t tell them to call a spiteful drug addict the N word after trying to get her to sodomize herself with a broomstick. So why is Grace the villain?
I agree that this has nothing to do with the Anthony case, but I object to anyone claiming criminals and miscreants are the victims of anything but their own behavior. You know who’s never gotten falsely accused of rape or murder? Me. Are you saying that’s luck or isn’t more likely I’m not some scumbag surrounded by the kind of people who make false accusations? I’ve worked with kids for years, but no false reports. Strange, huh?
FP: I am a bit speechless.
Again, in a system of law, just because someone is guilty of immorality or doing something bad, it does not mean that he should be convicted of a crime he did not commit, or that he somehow deserves to be charged for a crime he did not commit. The legal system is not based on karma.
I am very happy for you, Mr. Taylor, that you have never been falsely accused of a crime. Unfortunately a lot of innocent people have been, and many of them have lingered in jail for decades and continue to linger in jail for decades – and many have been executed on death row. And though this doesn’t need to be said in their defense, many of them were not engaged in other “immoral” activities when they were charged.
For the record, your description of the Duke case is false. In the first place, Crystal Mangum was a stripper, not a hooker. Further, she changed her story so many times, and it was so full of inconsistencies, that it is impossible to establish any of her charges. For instance, there is no evidence that the accused lacrosse players used a racial slur. In the course of the investigation, there was only one instance found of insensitive racial remarks by the 47 lacrosse players and there was no evidence whatsoever – none – that any such remarks were made by Dave Evans, Reade Seligman or Collin Finnerty, the three accused. See Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson’s Until Proven Innocent for an exhaustive and accurate account of what actually happened in the case. So this description of the specifics of the case is demonstrably untrue. Moreover, the idea that the three accused in some sense deserved to be accused of rape because they hired a stripper to entertain them is offensive and perverse.
The relevance of Nancy Grace is that she wanted innocent men in the Duke case to be put in jail and they were innocent. Now she wanted Casey Anthony put in prison. My own belief is that in the Anthony case, the evidence was arguably there for a conviction – although I cringe at the Nancy Graces of the world who believe that their own moral indignation is somehow at the epicenter of world civilization and far more important than the evidence that is presented in a court of law to prove guilt or innocence.
Alan Dershowitz, go ahead. As you see, it’s getting hot in here.
Dershowitz: Let me see if I understand the implications of Mr. Taylor’s views correctly.
1) It is better that seven or eight innocent people go to jail than that one guilty person go free, because for every 10 guilty people that go free, seven or eight will almost immediately go out and kill, rape, steal and abuse again. Thus in one fell swoop, Taylor undercuts millennia of history and tradition beginning with the Bible and covering Blackstone, the framers of our Constitution and the current Supreme Court.
2) Jury trials are essentially unnecessary because Taylor can tell, from reading newspaper accounts, who is guilty and who is innocent. So instead of a jury of 12 ordinary people we can simply have Robert Murdoch and Nancy Grace decide who goes to jail.
3) You can believe what the sensational press reports but not what The New York Times documents and quotes, because the Times once published Jason Blair and once smeared Taylor.
I don’t know about you, but I would not like to live in Taylor’s world.
Shapiro: It’s getting kind of lonely outside of the red-hot center of this argument, so I’ll just plunge in. Professor Anderson seems upset that I have proclaimed my belief that Casey Anthony is guilty, then sets up the straw man that the “trial should have been a mere formality and that since everyone already knew what Anthony did, the outcome should have been inevitable, if not pre-determined.” This is patent nonsense. The purpose of trials is to allow both sides a chance to present the evidence. The evidence supported Anthony’s conviction and guilt. One of the great idiocies of the current judicial system is the notion that when a defendant is brought into court, juries are supposed to engage in the mental fiction that the person is innocent until proven guilty. In truth, juries think that the person might be innocent and might be guilty. If the person were truly innocent, there is a very solid chance they would not be in court. In the world of reality, the police and prosecutors are not in the habit of tracking down and trying innocent people. That would be a waste of time. When somebody comes to trial, there is a high percentage shot that the person is guilty. Everybody in the room knows it, and it should not be taboo to either think it or say it. Aside from that, I seriously doubt that either Professor Anderson or Professor Dershowitz disagrees with Mr. Taylor or me that Casey Anthony killed her daughter.
I have a feeling that both Professor Anderson and Professor Dershowitz would be offended by the notion that the presumption of innocence is unrealistic for juries. That presumption, according to Professor Anderson, is a “bedrock” of justice. On one level, he’s right – we don’t presume the defendants guilty and then ask them to prove their innocence; the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. That’s all well and good. But that doesn’t mean that juries don’t think defendants are guilty when they walk in the room. That’s a reality worth dealing with.
I’m not going to get into the Nancy Grace debate, since I don’t know much about Ms. Grace; I’m not a Court TV junkie. I will say that I agree with Professor Anderson that the Duke case was a travesty abetted by Grace and company. I strongly disagree with Mr. Taylor’s characterization of that case. It was a racially-motivated lynch mob in the press egging on a horrible prosecutor.
I’d like to focus a bit on Professor Dershowitz’s rather curt comments. He sets up a straw man by sticking with the Blackstone quotation, except he accuses Mr. Taylor of reversing it. I didn’t see Mr. Taylor do that. In any case, Blackstone, as I said, is nonsensical. There is no choice between letting guilty men go free and convicting innocent men – that’s a false choice of the highest order. The best justice system convicts the guilty and absolves the innocent.
What I find most fascinating about Professor Dershowitz’s point with regard to the 10-for-1 aphorism is that he cites “millennia of history and tradition beginning with the Bible and covering Blackstone, the framers of our Constitution, and the current Supreme Court.” Yet Professor Dershowitz is an avowed utilitarian who should himself reject Blackstone on the grounds that it loses more innocent lives than it gains. Furthermore, Professor Dershowitz’s citation of tradition in this context is ironic to say the least, considering he rejects the Bible, tradition, the framers, and thousands of years of human history in embracing gay marriage. So much for his respect for the argument from authority.
Anderson: First, regarding the Duke case, let us set the record straight. Three young men did NOT “stiff a hooker.” There was no sex, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty left the party early because they were disgusted with the whole thing. Not one of the three called Crystal Mangum the “N-word.” Mr. Taylor claims that the three of them “gangbanged” Mangum when that did not happen at all.
This is significant because all of the necessary information about the case is out there. Yet, even though the information is easily obtained, Mr. Taylor has insisted in this public forum to present a totally different – and patently untrue – rendition of the story, accusing the three men of having sex with Mangum and then refusing to pay her. So, if Mr. Taylor refuses to acknowledge the open facts of this story and create a new scenario out of whole cloth, why should I take seriously his view of the Casey Anthony case? Indeed, why take anything he says seriously when it comes to issues of the court and justice?
Second, “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard. People have preconceived notions; it is human nature. However, for sake of justice, those who decide guilt or innocence in criminal cases, be they judges or jurors, are supposed to approach the proceedings from the point of view that no matter what one might think beforehand, they are supposed to hold to a standard that says the prosecution must demonstrate guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
For example, in Tonya Craft’s case, most of the jurors entered the trial with the belief that she probably was guilty, as did most of the local media. However, by the time the prosecutors had presented their case and by the time the defense had presented its evidence, the jurors understood that the charges clearly were nonsense. Thus, they acquitted her and in the aftermath of the case have said they feel even more strongly about their verdict.
What Mr. Taylor has said is this: If “everybody knows” someone is guilty, then that is the only true standard needed. You see, “everyone knew” the Duke boys were guilty; “everyone knew” Tonya Craft was guilty. If we were to have gone by his standards, then those innocent people would be in prison right now.
As I see it, people like Mr. Taylor see the conviction of the innocent as “collateral damage” in the hunt for the guilty. Furthermore, Blackstone’s directive is not a non sequitur because no one (including Blackstone) has declared: “20 guilty men go free; therefore, an innocent person won’t be convicted.” Instead, Blackstone was saying that we must have standards of proof that are high enough to ensure that innocent people will not be railroaded into prison or execution. In that process, some guilty people also may go free, but to Blackstone, it was a much worse thing for an innocent person to be convicted than a guilty man acquitted. I believe that, too.
Taylor: Mr. Anderson and Mr. Dershowitz are just illustrating my point about the Liberal/left-libertarian desire to abandon common sense while attempting to overlay their ivory tower philosophical views on reality. Straw man is a mild description of what’s being said here. Justice isn’t a binary proposition where you have to choose between guilty people going free to protect the innocent or punishing innocent people to ensure that victims get justice. We can ensure the guilty pay for their crimes while not putting innocent people in jail. I haven’t said there shouldn’t be trials and in fact here and at RedState I have lauded our criminal justice system as being the best in the world. I assume that’s harder to argue against than claiming I want to put innocent people in jail.
Guilty people going free isn’t an endorsement of our system, it is a consequence of our nobility and dedication to liberty and freedom. That dedication is a good thing but it doesn’t mean that we celebrate justice being denied.
Nor should that dedication to fair trials mean we abandon our common sense when making personal or moral judgements. People who hire “strippers” from escort services are looking for hookers (and even Mr. Anderson described Mangum as a hooker in his writings). People who don’t report their children missing are hiding their involvement in a crime. Children whose corpses are found dumped in swamps with duct tape on them are the victims of foul play. We can pretend these things aren’t true if it helps us sleep at night, but no one can demand that society conform to what is at best a naive and sheltered understanding of the human experience.
It is profoundly disturbing to see that the definition of innocence here is that a court can’t convict a person. Being found not guilty and being innocent are two different things. The only innocent that has come up in this entire debate is Caylee Anthony – the child everyone is happy to forget about. Zenaida Gonzales is also probably innocent, yet for all the sound and fury here over false accusations, Casey Anthony’s false accusations against her don’t seem to be much of concern.
Which brings me to my point, which is not what most of you claim: that we live in a time when it can be argued that Casey Anthony is “innocent” is evidence of the complete moral collapse of our society. I won’t argue Dershowitz’s understanding of this supposed connection between The Bible and pretentious political quotes since I’m not a Christian, but I will say that the connection between who we give our sympathy to and cultural decline is clear. You can pretend that people hire “strippers” for frat parties or that there’s some reasonable explanation for not reporting your child missing or even that you truly believe that it’s necessary to let guilty people go free to ensure that innocent people aren’t imprisoned. What you cannot pretend is that there aren’t consequences to your pretense, one of which is the corpse of a Caylee Anthony.
Dershowitz: I am willing to acknowledge that the vast majority of people who are charged with serious crimes in the United States are factually guilty—that is, they did it. But an important reason why that is so is precisely because we make it so hard to convict the innocent by requiring prosecutors to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and to satisfy the strong presumption of innocence. In other words, by enforcing our preference for the acquittal of ten guilty over the conviction of even one innocent, we influence the process of charging so as to assure that very few innocents are in fact brought to trial. That is almost certainly not the case in countries such as Iran, China, Zimbabwe and others in which there is a preference for assuring that even one guilty does not go free, even if that requires convicting many innocent. So it is for utilitarian reasons that I support our traditional approach. (By the way, I do not reject the Bible. I wrote a book about it called The Genesis of Justice, in which I derive many pragmatic and utilitarian approaches from that wonderful book.)
Mr. Taylor believes that one consequence of preferring the acquittal of the innocent to the conviction of the guilty “is the corpse of Caylee Anthony.” Is he actually suggesting that Casey Anthony, if she in fact killed her daughter, actually did so because she calculated the odds of being acquitted based on the presumption of innocence? A much clearer consequence of the presumption of innocence is the fact that so few innocent people are actually convicted of serious crimes, though there are still far too many innocent people in American prisons.
Shapiro: We’re still stuck on the Duke case, I see. Instead of debating that – I’ve already said that I thought it was a travesty all the way around, and that the young men were unduly treated beyond all repair – let’s stick to Anthony. I understand Mr. Anderson’s point that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard. My question is whether that is a realistic or correct standard, especially as vaguely applied by a jury of people most of whom desperately wanted to get out of jury duty. In fact, Mr. Anderson argues against his own standard in the case of Tonya Craft when he says that the jurors presumed her guilty but were convinced that she was not guilty. So the standard didn’t matter there, obviously.
I disagree that if “everyone knows” that somebody is guilty, they’re guilty. But there’s a pretty damn good shot they’re guilty, at the very least – and the chances of finding an unbiased jury are slim and none. Our entire system needs to be rethought around something approaching realism.
Finally, as to Mr. Anderson’s point about Blackstone – to reiterate, he said, “Blackstone was saying that we must have standards of proof that are high enough to ensure that innocent people will not be railroaded into prison or execution” – that’s not what Blackstone was saying at all. If it were, his statement would be nonsensical, since we can easily establish a standard of proof that always acquits the innocent: don’t prosecute anybody. But we need to draw the balance. Where we draw that balance is what is at issue, and what system is necessary to best achieve the ends of acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty. I fully agree with Mr. Taylor’s assessment of the situation on that score.
Now, as to Professor Dershowitz, his statement that “by enforcing our preference for the acquittal of ten guilty over the conviction of even one innocent, we influence the process of charging” is false on its face, especially since Professor Dershowitz is the biggest critic of testilying, false prosecution, etc. If anything, our purported standard makes it easier to prosecute the innocent, since everyone assumes that no guilty person would be brought to trial. The reason that we are not Iran, China or Zimbabwe is not that they have a different standard of justice coming in, but that they are tyrannical non-democratic societies that do not give a general damn about their populations. Even if they had presumptions of innocence, does Professor Dershowitz think that those governments would suddenly begin acquitting their foes? They would simply shoot them or drag them off to the local gulag.
By the way, I’m not arguing with the Bible, in which I deeply believe. I’m just questioning why Professor Dershowitz would invoke it at all, since he does not believe in its authority. Pragmatic and utilitarian approaches require no citations.
Professor Dershowitz’s last point is one I admit I do not understand. He criticizes Mr. Taylor for stating that “one consequence of preferring the acquittal of the innocent to the conviction of the guilty ‘is the corpse of Casey Anthony.’” Apparently, he doesn’t believe in the notion that our standards of justice had any impact on Anthony’s behavior at all. This I find hard to believe. Our standards of justice are designed to have an impact. Make them lax, and criminals will prosper. Make them harsh, and some criminals will think again. Make them just, and the innocent will go free and the guilty will be convicted.
FP: Alan Dershowitz, Ben Shapiro, Rob Taylor and William Anderson, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.
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