So, quite obviously, I am in no position to evaluate the verdict, whether it was a good and fair one or, as many seem to believe, a travesty of justice. I have heard it said, repeatedly, that she "got away with murder." The verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial produced the same kind of response. It was generally agreed that the man was guilty--and I confess I agreed with that conclusion, even though I was only a little better informed in that case than in this one.
It does occur to me, though, that the standard of "reasonable doubt" may have shifted over the past few decades, to a place where it is now an extremely high bar for a prosecuting attorney to leap. Perhaps it is, in some ways, for the good. I think we are more skeptical of the information that reaches us than we were, say, five decades ago. We demand more in the way of "proof" to substantiate our belief. We have learned to distrust authority of all kinds, including the courts, and to have a greater faith in our personal judgment. Through a succession of wars, scandals and crises of all kinds (including the recent economic crisis) we have unlearned the quality of suspending disbelief. In the larger context, a great number of us have no God to provide us with clear answers or absolute judgments. We are thrown back on our own resources, whose limitations we are only too aware of.
Those who decry the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial must be convinced that the jury's doubts were unreasonable. They were not sitting in the courtroom day after day, confronted with reams of conflicting evidence, but nonetheless allow themselves the privilege of absolute certainty. Yet I know of at least one person who was glued to the proceedings on television for a great deal of time and--no matter how tendentious the stream of adverse commentary--came to share the jury's doubt.
The "truth," clearly, is hard to find, even in the most mundane of events and no matter the circumstances. What may seem like purely physical evidence is open to interpretation, and is eventually no more reliable than eyewitness reports have been shown to be. We each have a different view of what is happening before our eyes at this very moment, the "reality" we convince ourselves we perceive. How much more so, then, of the "facts" that are reported to us by others, who infect them with their own personal perceptions, prejudices and convictions?
Doubt, in the modern age, is endemic to our very nature. Which must make things extremely difficult for the prosecuting attorney--and very much easier for the defense. I guess we can only hope they got it right. We can be sure only that we will never know the "truth."