Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony trial demonstrates that U.S. Constitution still matters in the Social Media Age

The Casey Anthony trial demonstrates that the U.S. Constitution still matters in the Social Media Age. Casey Anthony was accused of killing her daughter Caylee Anthony who died under mysterious circumstances in 2008. On July 5, 2011, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing Caylee by a jury of her peers since the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even though Ms. Anthony was found not guilty she still has lost in the overall scheme of things. Her daughter is dead, she has spent more than 2 years of her life in prison, and she is seen as a monster by some people. Ms. Anthony may ultimately end up earning millions of dollars for her life story but no amount of money can make her whole after the ordeal she has been through.

The State of Florida lost not because of the not guilty verdict but because they most likely spent several million dollars on a case that did not answer who killed Caylee Anthony. It is doubtful that we will ever know who killed Caylee Anthony.

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution came out of this trial unscathed. The Bill of Rights states, "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Some may argue that the media won while others may argue that the media lost. The media won in that it got what it wanted: RATINGS. Great ratings equals more advertising dollars. However, others may argue that television personalities such as Nancy Grace acted so inappropriate that this case is a black eye for how the media covers the courts and strengthens the argument against more cameras and other technologies in the courtroom.

Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966), is the seminal case that discusses how the media may unfairly influence pending legal proceedings. It is the case that inspired the television series and movie The Fugitive. Sam Sheppard was a doctor who was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. The media coverage of Sheppard's case did not allow him to obtain a fair trial. Sheppard was first tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and then in a court of law. Even though Sheppard was ultimately found not guilty the ordeal destroyed his life.

In the Social Media Age, it is easier than in the Television Age to be tried to convicted in the court of public opinion. The Casey Anthony jurors were sequestered and this cost the State of Florida a considerable amount of money and was extremely difficult on the jurors during the sequestration. As I have previously stated, sequestering a jury is not practical in the overwhelming majority of cases. Therefore, a national conversation is needed to find a solution regarding how the courts should respond to the Social Media Age.

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Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.


  1. I agree that our system remains intact. I have worked on a number of high profile criminal and civil trials in my career, including the Robert Blake murder defense, so I know what it looks like on the inside. While Nancy Grace and the HLN team seemed to imply this was a done deal, as I watched the verdict being published, I can’t say that I was shocked. During deliberations, the jury has only their notes and admitted evidence to work with. Although we were given an opportunity to see most of the evidence presented to the jury, they were not viewing it along with a picture of little Caylee in one corner, and “Tot-Mom” in another. Visual presentation can be very persuasive.

  2. Thanks for visiting and providing commentary. The rush to judgment by so many seemed like a mob mentality. We may never know if "justice" was served with the jury's verdict but I believe that the principles underlying our rule of law was demonstrated by the jury's decision.

  3. I never ceases to amaze me how the American public can be "outraged" by a single act of cruelty, yet mass genocide occurs on a daily basis around the world and most of the public sits idly by with their head up media's proverbial poop-chute and complains about the stink being spoon fed to them on a daily basis. Some say poor Casey Anthony. Some say poor Caylee Anthony. I say poor us. The more we sit around focusing on media-hyped singular acts of crime, the less likely we as a species will be able to open our minds and hearts to the mass depravity and cruelty that is happening in the world around us and actually do something about it.