Casey Anthony is not guilty of the murder of her daughter Caylee Anthony.
However, she is guilty of “providing false information to law enforcement officer“.
It’s something of a cliche that high profile people never go down for their crimes, they go down for the cover up. It was the cover-up of the Watergate break-in that destroyed Nixon’s presidency. It wasn’t oral sex with Monica Lewinsky that got Clinton impeached, it was lying about it under oath. Remember how Martha Stewart went to prison for a year for insider trading? Oh, wait, she didn’t. She went to prison for obstructing justice and lying to investigators.
I want you to think about this. False information to a law enforcement officer. One would assume that a murderer intent on evading the law and avoiding imprisonment would give false information to law enforcement officers at every opportunity. And when the stakes are high–capital murder high–what’s the risk to them? Committing a misdemeanor?
It was always a strange strategy to charge Casey Anthony with lying to officers when they were already pushing to give her the death penalty for the crime, the circumstances of which she was alleged to have lied about under the false information charge.
In the shadow of O.J.
Everyone thinks Casey Anthony is guilty, and the reasons they think she is guilty are precisely the kinds of things that can never be introduced into court. She acted like this when a normal person would act like that, she had a weird expression, she’s on this med or that drug, etc.
Remember that courtrooms are theaters. Law is not about the pursuit of truth, it is about the pursuit of justice. A trial is a story based on true events, with a giant book called the Rules of Evidence serving as Aristotle’s Poetics, limiting what can and can’t go into the story.
All of American criminal jurisprudence and trial practice exists in the shadow of the O.J. Simpson trial. The moment the brutal slaying of two people came down to whether the defendant could fit a glove ostensibly worn by the murderer on his own hand unassisted, criminal law slid irreversibly into the postmodern era. At that moment, there ceased to be truth, there ceased to be things that were knowable with absolute certainty. There is no reality, there is no past. There is only a story constructed in the present from artifacts. In a courtroom, there is only the story being told simultaneously by two different authors working at cross purposes. The prosecution writes a thriller, the defense writes a tragedy. Or vice versa. Two different plots from the same set of “facts” with the same set of characters.
But we knew this since Blackstone.
Raskolnikov the Postmodernist.
What the O.J. trial taught us is that there is a third author of the trial story–the criminal. The postmodern Raskolnikov not only scripts the trial before he commits the crime, he can now step outside of himself during the crime and its aftermath to test the veracity of the story he writes as it unfolds. “Is what is actually happening sufficiently less believable than the lie I will tell later?” Our Raskolnikov writes and revises in situ and in real-time.
You don’t get away with murder by leaving no evidence, because that is impossible. You get away with murder by making an absurdity of truth. Tell the lie that is amorphous and evolving. There was a nanny. The nanny’s name was Zanny. Another Zanny. There was no nanny. The nanny is Xanax. Under questioning lies are not lies but reconstructions of language. “It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” It depends what the meaning of ‘nanny’ is. Words can have no meaning when ‘meaning’ has no meaning.
If criminal cases have become more and more scientific, then the criminal and/or defendant operates under the limits of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. You can know (a) or you can know (b), but you can never know both at the same time. Nothing is certain, everything is just uncertain to a greater or lesser degree.
I said there were three authors but this is not true. There is a fourth author. The combination of the law, television, and media. This author (or editor if you prefer) tells a story that is not limited to either facts at hand in the trial or to the stories written by the litigators or the criminal. This is the story about the stories, the meta-narrative of the case. The editor, or meta-author, introduces facts, analysis, and commentary colored by prejudices, agendas, biases, and supposition convincingly and entirely unchallenged. The meta-author puts on its own lawyers to argue the prosecution and defense, and hires its own scientific and psychiatric experts to opine on matters within their purview.
The meta-author tries and retries the case in real-time (much as the postmodern Raskolnikov revises his story and lies in real-time). But the meta-author doesn’t write in the interests of justice or for a judge or jury.
The meta-author writes for the audience, and it must write a story the audience likes. The meta-author has two constraints. First, the meta-narrative of the case must solve the crime. It must identify the murderer. Do you believe Casey Anthony killed Caylee? Do you believe O.J. killed his ex-wife? You believe this not based on the stories delivered at trial but based on the one delivered in the media. The frustration you feel is that their guilt has gone unpunished. But you do not believe the crime is unsolved. The first function of the meta-narrative of the case is to restore in the public’s mind the false idea that: there is a truth that is knowable, that we know it, and that all that has happened in the court case is that the justice machine has slightly malfunctioned.
And this is where the second, vital function of the meta-narrative comes in. It tells you that the reason that justice has malfunctioned is because someone lied. To you. This is the crime above all crimes. If you are not the meta-author, then you cannot lie to the audience. The audience will destroy their heroes when their heroes betray their trust. And this is why in a capital murder case prosecutors included the relatively insignificant charge of lying to the police. It is the nudge and wink to the audience at home.
It says, “No matter what happens at trial, we all know you did it and we’re going to get you one way or the other.”