I’m not going to share a reasoned and persuasive column with you today. I’m not going to share a premise, build from that premise, and guide you to a conclusion that may be at 90 degrees from my opening paragraphs. I’m not going to hotlink to supporting and explanatory material. I’m not going to explore some new technology and tell you why you should or should not fear it. I’m not going to discuss liberty and technology and how the two conflict, contradict or complement each other.
Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.
I remember it vividly. It was one in the afternoon on Oct. 3, 1995. I was at work. So many of my “where were you when …?” memories take place at work, sitting behind desks, seated in front of computers. I was using what was then state-of-the-art technology while listening to the news on very old technology: a portable AM radio, the very same AM radio I am listening to at this moment. It’s a reliable old thing, a device that hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s just an AM/FM/TV band radio that I’ve carried to every office and cubicle in which I’ve ever worked.
It was on that radio that I heard the O.J. Simpson verdict. I remember thinking, when the “not guilty” verdict was announced, that I was hearing something that would become part of history. I remember thinking, “When they ask me where I was when I heard it, I’ll have to say I was sitting at my desk, like I always am.” It was not immediately apparent to me just how deep was the travesty of justice that had occurred. It was not until several hours later that it really dawned on me: O.J. Simpson, who was clearly guilty of murder to any reasonable, rational human being, a man so arrogant in his guilt that he tried to sell a book profiting from his vicious double homicide … was going to go free.
He was going to go free because our oppositional “justice” system is designed to reward the lawyer who can blow the thickest smoke screen, obfuscating fact and reason with conjecture and fantasy. He was going to go free because shrill, affected cries of “racism” are enough to invalidate any evidence, no matter how compelling. Most of all – and worst of all – O.J. Simpson was going to go free because juries are stupid.
I believe in the principles of freedom and liberty on which a free society is supposed to be based. I believe that one is innocent until proven guilty when accused of a crime. I believe in the right of every human being to be judged by a jury of his peers. Yet I cannot escape the conclusion that juries are stupid. These juries often disgrace our legal system with their wretched inability to dismiss wishful thinking in favor of dispassionate fact.
This week, when history found me again, I was sitting at my desk, listening to my AM radio. I was using cutting-edge computer-aided drafting technology to create exploded views of industrial machine parts, for use as illustrations in documentation I am revising. As I worked, I paused to listen: The Casey Anthony verdict was about to be read. A trial that has commanded national attention for years was about to conclude.
I moved my mouse aside, pressed my earbud closer in my ear, and waited. I was about to collect another “where were you when” story. I was not prepared for the eerie feeling of deja vu that would result.
There is no reasonable human being who does not look at Casey Anthony, at her behavior, at her demeanor, at her ridiculous, ill-conceived lies, at the evidence of the case, at the testimony of the many shifty, creepy family members involved, and see a filthy child murderer. Casey Anthony killed her beautiful little girl, after neglecting and abusing that child in ways no parent can imagine or understand. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is true. Casey Anthony is a soulless killer who has committed an act so vile that covering it up afterward pales in comparison to the act itself.
Our remarkable legal system has produced the most absurd of verdicts in the Casey Anthony case. A trial we have watched on television, have heard about in nightly news reports, have analyzed ad nauseam on cable talk shows, have listened to on satellite radio channels devoted solely to coverage of the affair, has ended in an official contradiction: In the eyes of the law, Casey Anthony lied about not killing the child she didn’t murder. Were it not for the tragic reality of the adorable little girl whose last moments were filled with pain and horror, were it not for the sadness of contemplating her ignominious final resting place, this case would produce peals of laughter from any reasonable American.
In the days following the verdict, a perverse rush to justify, to rationalize the Casey Anthony verdict has filled my AM radio’s earphones. We don’t want to acknowledge the elephant in the room; we don’t want to admit that, no, this isn’t some triumph of our legal system in coping with a complex and counterintuitive case. We don’t want to accept that in this case, the jurors were stupid. Their stupidity will set free a woman who is less than human. Their idiocy will inflict on society a black-hearted monster in the shape of what was once a mother.
Where was I when I heard the verdict? I was working with new technology. Much older technology was my window into a bleak and unjust world. When I was finished listening, I swallowed the bile of my contempt for Casey Anthony’s jury. I returned to work because that is what I always do. As I worked, a line from a Robert Frost poem mocked me, echoing in my head for the rest of the day:
“And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.”