A picture is worth a thousand words. This expression is clearly recognized by prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick and she put it to constructive use in her dazzling summation in the Casey Anthony murder trial today in Orlando.
This nation riveting trial is being called the first of the social media age. Many more people get a say than was the case in the earlier technological age in which the trial of O.J. Simpson occurred in Los Angeles almost two decades ago.
The speedy advancement of computer technology alongside that of cable television has made photo images and words more acceptable as well as graphically feasible than any other period of world history. Burdick put images and recorded words to work in her favor today, at the same time taking advantages of opportunities handed to the prosecution by the vitriolic and highly accusatory summation by lead defense counsel Jose Biaz.
Last week I wrote a column predicting that the decider throwing the case in the prosecution's direction was the footage of Casey Anthony pictured erotically twisting and turning along with a nightclub dancer in a hot bod contest. I also wrote about the damning symbolism of Anthony during that same period, with daughter Caylee missing, having a tattoo with the Italian inscription bella vita being implanted on her back, meaning good life in English.
Burdick used a photo still of Casey's dance alongside the bella vita image at the close of her summation. Symbolism is an effective tool for getting a point across, something that Madison Avenue has been aware of for years, with the sophisticated technology making it all the more dominant. In this case the side by side symbols representing a damning silent testimonial of Casey Anthony.
People respond at a strong gut level to skillfully presented imagery. In this case presenting the aforementioned images alongside one of the appearance of angelic looking Caylee Anthony has a powerful potential effect on people who, if not parents or grandparents themselves, identify with families to whom they are related as well as friends.
There is an important axiom in the law that one should not exceed the level of what one can satisfactorily prove or explain. Defense lead counsel Jose Baez provided the prosecution with inviting targets of which it took ample advantage.
Baez in his closing argument became incensed and vindictive as he sought to make the prosecution, the Orange County Sheriff"s Department, and the prosecution's witnesses loom as members of a veritable lynching party. According to Baez, Casey Anthony was the sacrificial lamb of prosecutors looking for a high profile victory. The united forces would stop at nothing to secure such a victory. The law enforcement community was eager to cooperate in the prosecution's nefarious pursuit. The prosecution's testifying witnesses had engaged in widespread perjury.
Burdick turned Baez's accusation against the Orange County Sheriff's Department against him by recounting the long and dedicated efforts directed toward finding Caylee Anthony. She contrasted this dedication alongside the numerous lies Casey told them and how many dead ends she led them on through her pattern of prevarication.
Another area where Baez overstepped his bounds and paid a stern price was in his characterizing George Anthony as the villain of this dramatic saga. He had found Caylee dead in the backyard pool, applied duct tape, and buried her. The prosecution pointed out that Anthony, a former police officer in Warren, Ohio, could hardly have been expected to later use the identical duct tape that he had used in the burial process on his granddaughter that he also employed in the process of posting signs calling for Caylee's return.
One of Baez's most serious blunders was stating that George Anthony's reported suicide attempt was a stunt to divert suspicion. He described his suicide note as self-serving. On a scale of mistakes this was gigantic.
All one has to do is read the contents of the suicide note to recognize how far off base Baez is in that Anthony apologized and asserted that he had been a failure and the cause of family difficulties. In view of the tireless efforts he performed on behalf of finding Caylee and steady assertions that she would eventually be found, the charge that he knew all the time that she was dead since he had buried her rings hollow.
An ultimate irony surrounds the fact that, when Burdick scored points by denouncing Baez's charges of an opportunistic rush to judgment against an innocent young woman, Baez repeatedly jumped to his feet and objected. The authority he cited was Judge Belvin Perry's rule of decorum.
Alas, it was Mr. Baez who had turned proceedings in an accusatory and mean-spirited direction. He then had the audacity to question Burdick's effort to respond on behalf of a prosecution team of which she was a part along with a sheriff's department and series of witnesses who had been tarnished with a broad brush in a manner reflective of a ruthless talk show host.