After days of testimony, hundreds of pieces of evidence and nearly a hundred witnesses, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her two-year-old daughter. It was not the verdict that struck me, but the public outcry.
Why are complete strangers so vested in the lives of people they don't even know? Afterall, short of a confession or witnessing the crime, can one ever really know for sure? What is the driving need to see someone punished? I can't help but think of the way people once gathered to watch a hanging as if it was a form of entertainment.
Charged emotions of anger and despair are inevitably triggered by a child's death and the mindset becomes prosecutorial. It is a horrible thought that any child would be murdered, but according to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2,000 children in the U.S. die of child abuse and neglect each year. It's a fair guess that the actual number of abuse and neglect deaths is much higher than that reported by vital statistics data. 81% of all child fatalities were younger than 4 years old and 82% of the perpetrators are parents.
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. Americans should be concerned, not about the few they believe beat the system, but outraged about the miscarriage of justice that incarcerates the innocent and ruins the lives of tens of thousands of people.
A 2005 study of all exonerations has found that there have been more than 350 people wrongfully convicted and subsequently exonerated in the US since 1989. Click here to read the report. Over a hundred people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. Police misconduct was a factor in half of all convictions eventually exonerated.
Causes of miscarriages of justice include:
Withholding or destruction of evidence by police or prosecution
Prejudice towards the defendant
Clarence Brandley of Texas was wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of Cheryl Dee Ferguson, a 16 year-old student and held for nine years on death row. He was freed in 1990.
After extensive hearings detailing prosecutorial misconduct, the judge declared, "In the thirty years that this court has presided over matters in the judicial system, no case has presented a more shocking scenario of the effects of racial prejudice"And public officials who lost sight of what is right and just."
Amazingly, it took three
more years for Clarence to be was released from Texas' death row. After his
release, Brandley was involved in further legal proceedings over child support
payments that had accrued over his time in jail.