On the Casey Anthony judge

Judge Belvin Perry was the presiding judge for the Casey Anthony trial 2 years ago. He recently had this to say:

Judge Belvin Perry told NBC’s “Today” show that he thought there was sufficient evidence for a conviction on a first-degree murder charge, even though much of the evidence was circumstantial.

Anthony was acquitted almost two years ago of killing her daughter, Caylee, following a trial that attracted worldwide attention. She was convicted of making false statements to police and got credit for time served.

When he read the jury’s verdict, Belvin said he felt “surprise, shock, disbelief” and read it twice.

“I just wanted to be sure I was reading what I was reading,” Perry said.

Alright, that sounds fair enough. He has insight into the law and he knows what he’s talking about. At least, that’s what I thought until I read this:

Perry also said he thought prosecutors were better attorneys than Baez, who the judge described as “personable.” All the defense had to do was create reasonable doubt, which they did, he said.

Now, I’m not some fancy lawyer-type, but the last time I checked, if there is reasonable doubt, then, by definition, there was not sufficient evidence for a conviction. I’m pretty sure that’s how this whole criminal justice thing works.

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4 Responses

  1. “Now, I’m not some fancy lawyer-type, but the last time I checked, if there is reasonable doubt, then, by definition, there was not sufficient evidence for a conviction. I’m pretty sure that’s how this whole criminal justice thing works.”

    Actually, that’s untrue. In the adversarial judicial system used in the USA, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, that is, with the group that is making the assertion. The jury is instructed that the the prosecution’s case must be show that the person is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” to a “reasonable person.”

    Therein lies the problem. There might be incredible evidence available, but if the jury acts in an unreasonable manner, then the case is lost. Early in the use of DNA in criminal trials, juries used the “reasonable doubt” clause to find rapists not guilty because DNA sequencing could not do better than a 1 in billion chance of being wrong. Juries thought that was doubt. But further improvements, and better case law, has made it clear that 1 in a billion is very reasonable, and now juries convict.

    I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony story, but the problem is always that the “reasonable doubt” requires solid critical thinking skills and relies on a jury that might or might not have the ability to separate evidence from “Casey is so cute, she couldn’t have done that.” Remember OJ Simpson was found innocent, and there wasn’t even an unreasonable doubt that he was guilty.

  2. Correct. The judge might just be saying “The evidence was solid, and the jurors were swayed by emotional arguments.”

  3. Actually, that’s untrue. In the adversarial judicial system used in the USA, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, that is, with the group that is making the assertion. The jury is instructed that the the prosecution’s case must be show that the person is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” to a “reasonable person.”

    I don’t see how this even begins to contradict anything I said. Of course the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. That’s the basis for my entire point. And of course the jury must believe the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s why I said that if there is reasonable doubt, the jury has been instructed that, by definition, there is no sufficient evidence for a conviction. Again, exactly as I said. I don’t think you said anything different, other than to piece your sentences together in a different order from mine.

    Early in the use of DNA in criminal trials, juries used the “reasonable doubt” clause to find rapists not guilty because DNA sequencing could not do better than a 1 in billion chance of being wrong. Juries thought that was doubt. But further improvements, and better case law, has made it clear that 1 in a billion is very reasonable, and now juries convict.

    So? There was reasonable doubt, and thus by definition, those juries came to the correct verdict. Their conclusion may not have reflected the truth, but that’s why criminal juries don’t find defendants innocent, instead finding them ‘not guilty’. None of this contradicts anything I’ve said.

    I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony story, but the problem is always that the “reasonable doubt” requires solid critical thinking skills and relies on a jury that might or might not have the ability to separate evidence from “Casey is so cute, she couldn’t have done that.” Remember OJ Simpson was found innocent, and there wasn’t even an unreasonable doubt that he was guilty.

    Reasonable doubt is never a problem. Indeed, it’s a victory nearly every time a jury finds a defendant not guilty; the odds are stacked so highly in favor of the government, that for the prosecution to lose usually means an awfully shitty case was put forth.

    And OJ wasn’t found innocent. He was found not guilty. Had the jury been asked to find him innocent or not innocent, I’m confident they would have come back “not innocent”. That is, if it was up to the defense to prove his innocence, the prosecution would have easily raised reasonable doubt that he was innocent.

  4. Correct. The judge might just be saying “The evidence was solid, and the jurors were swayed by emotional arguments.”

    We know what he said: The defense created reasonable doubt. He didn’t say it was doubt merely in the minds of the jurors. He didn’t say there was no reasonable doubt but the jurors were biased unduly. He said there was reasonable doubt. Given that the prosecution never even proved a cause of death, I’m inclined to believe that.

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