If Casey Anthony were black

Yesterday, Casey Anthony was found not guilty on all major charges stemming from the disappearance and death of her two year old daughter Caylee Anthony. If you were expecting the obligatory “if Casey Anthony were black she would have gone to jail” post, then this post is not for you.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty because the prosecution failed to prove its case on the murder charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In my first year of law school I learned just how high the prosecution’s burden is, and in this case it was not met, causing the jury to return a swift and most importantly unanimous not guilty verdict on the most serious charge.

Simply put: Casey Anthony was not acquitted because she is white. If all of the facts, evidence, and jury in this case were the same but the Anthony family were a black family, it is still likely that little black Casey would have been acquitted.

It is possible that a young black single mother in the same situation may not have been able to snag a solid defense attorney like Jose Baez but if she did, I argue the jury would have reached the same verdict. In a case where many facts worked against the prosecution, like the fact that it took them so long to locate Caylee Anthony’s remains or the fact that there were no witnesses and very little physical evidence directly linking Casey to the murder. There are not a lot of jurors who are going to easily sentence a woman to death without more proof that there was even a murder at all.

In fact, in the state of Florida, only two women have been executed in the modern era. The third woman executed in Florida’s history was a slave who killed her master and was hung during the 19th century. There are currently 390 people on death row in Florida, only one is a woman.

There is a strong argument to be made about the fact that prosecutors overcharged this case and by putting a capital offense in the mix they basically made it an easy call for the jury. This argument is much stronger than claiming that race played a factor in the outcome or even as some “black twitter” users did by comparing this case to other trials like O.J. Simpson and Michael Vick (who for the record plead guilty to his crime). The fact of the matter is that prior to this incident Casey Anthony had no criminal record and it appeared that she had some psychological issues. Comparing this capital murder case to high profile cases where a black defendant like Michael Vick went to jail is not only off the mark, it only serves to ignore the real issue of racial inequality in the justice system. This case is not an example of that.

Professor Imani Perry made a similar argument over at The Grio today writing that:

[T]he case struck a nerve on what is colloquially called “black Twitter” because it reminds us of a larger trend that is unquestionably a sign of grave injustice: racial inequality in criminal law. Research shows that all things being equal: police, judges and juries treat African-American suspects and defendants much more harshly at every step in criminal law enforcement. African-Americans are the most imprisoned population on the planet.

Professor Perry goes on to explain that while inequality in the criminal justice system is a reality, outrage over Casey Anthony being acquitted is misplaced. The tragic death of a young child is hardly an anomaly and it is much more productive to target our energy and work towards preventing abuse of children before it leads to death.

The saying goes something like we would rather ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to prison. We should be much more concerned with those individuals who are unjustly convicted and sent to prison instead of the one sensational media driven case where the defense attorney did his job. Priorities people, priorities.

Join the Conversation

  • davenj

    “Professor Perry goes on to explain that while inequality in the criminal justice system is a reality, outrage over Casey Anthony being acquitted is misplaced. The tragic death of a young child is hardly an anomaly and it is much more productive to target our energy and work towards preventing abuse of children before it leads to death.”

    This cuts right to the core of our justice system, and dealing with the conflicting nature of punishment and prevention. Punishment tends to satisfy our retributive sides, and when people feel that someone has escaped punishment this desire for retribution goes unsatisfied. It’s a completely understandable response, but the more productive action is to channel this into prevention of further crimes of a similar nature.

    Many of the folks who are angry that a potentially guilty person went free here would be better served looking into actions they can take in their own communities to limit child abuse. It may not be retribution, but I’m pretty sure the kids out there will value the help more than the knowledge that a woman in Florida is in prison.

    • http://feministing.com/members/logic/ Logic

      Shouting out a witnessed crime is appropriate social behavior.

      • davenj

        Agreed? Not sure what this in response to.

  • http://feministing.com/members/lagrinne/ Leslie

    I do think it is worth noting that had Casey Anthony been Black, the media would not have created the Spectacle around this case that it did. Copious adults – women and men of varying racial/ethnic backgrounds – are currently being investigated or prosecuted for being suspected of killing a child. But I would argue that Casey Anthony’s case was followed, in part, because the story of a white mother killing her white child is ESPECIALLY abhorrent to people. Race cannot be completely (or EVER) discounted as a component of this story (or stories similar to it).

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Yes, Leslie that is definitely worth noting and I think it’s a valid point. I’m not discounting race completely in this *story* but I think as far as the verdict with all other factors remaining the same it didn’t play a factor. There was very little physical evidence linking Casey to the crime and the prosecution basically proved that Casey is a liar, not that she is a murderer. I think the same would be true if Casey were black.

  • http://feministing.com/members/bjasd/ Barbara Anastasia

    “….a young black single mother in the same situation may not have been able to snag a solid defense attorney like Jose Baez…”

    I am wondering why you didn’t explore that statement to its logical conclusion. It isn’t about skin color or religion, it is about money. By definition, when laws are used to ensure a huge divide between “haves” and “have-nots,” mayhem ensues.

    All things are not equal (financially) in the U.S., and fallout will escalate in every direction until we remedy that . Film at 11….

    • http://feministing.com/members/mutengene/ camer

      from accounts her lawyer wasn’t expensive and hardly a hot shot attorney. it took him 8 years to get his license to practice, and he has only been practicing for three years.

      • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

        Camer thanks for that info. I didn’t necessarily mean to imply he was a hot shot but that he is still better than what a lot of folks can get in the same situation.

    • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

      By definition, when laws are used to ensure a huge divide between “haves” and “have-nots,” mayhem ensues.

      Yeah, such as those who have White skin and those who don’t.

      • http://feministing.com/members/tashabunny/ natasha

        I’m a bit confused as to what you’re saying here. Of course, people of color are a lot more likely to go to jail than white people, but the statement you quoted is about financial haves and have-nots. Are you trying to say that all people of color are poor and all white people are rich? Because that’s just not true, there are opportunity gaps which make people of color more vulnerable to being a financial have-not, but it isn’t as simple as all people of color are poor and all white people are rich. There is a good deal of poor white people and wealthy people of color. But, as I said I don’t know if that’s what you meant to imply, so maybe you could expand on your comment?

        • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

          I probably should’ve expanded on what I said and for that, I’m sorry. It’s just that whenever there’s an accusation, there is always a person (usually White) who jumps in and claims that the real problem is classism. Intentional or not, it’s a classic derailing technique.

          I do know that not all POC are poor and not all White people are rich. Again, sorry for the confusion.

          • http://feministing.com/members/tashabunny/ natasha

            Thanks for clearing that up for me!

  • http://feministing.com/members/jessie08/ jessie

    While i agree with what this article is saying, I would like to point out that if Casey Anthony were black, this would have in no way been such a big news sensation.

    • davenj

      Unless the father was white, and the baby was particularly light-skinned, I agree. The media surrounding this was the standard “white girl gone missing” narrative.

      I also believe that, had this been her son, there would have been less coverage.

    • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      It certainly feels that way to me….sigh…….

  • http://feministing.com/members/chayes007/ Courtney

    I’m really glad you put this up. I’m tired of people throwing the race card around – a little girl died tragically. Whether or not Casey killed her and whether she is white or black doesn’t matter. While the news may often pay more attention to a white child tragedy, race has nothing to do with this issue.

    • davenj

      It might. Race and criminal justice are pretty inextricably tied together, so to claim “I’m tired of people throwing the race card around” when the criminal justice system imprisons far more people of certain races is extremely insensitive.

      “While the news may often pay more attention to a white child tragedy, race has nothing to do with this issue.”

      The first sentence directly contradicts the second one.

    • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

      What davenj said. Also, race isn’t a card in a game; it’s a reality.

      • http://feministing.com/members/chayes007/ Courtney

        “The first sentence directly contradicts the second one.”
        What I meant was yes, the MEDIA does often pay more attention to certain races when it comes to cases like this one. However I do not believe the fact that Casey Anthony was white really had any importance in this case. While people of certain races are put in jail more often than people of other races in many circumstances, I simply don’t understand how that relates to the Casey Anthony trial EXCEPT for the high media coverage – which is not what Zerlina seemed to be talking about in this article.

        And I never said race was a card in a game – I wasn’t aware that the phrase “race card” could be considered racist? I simply meant people always try to bring up race when it has nothing to do with the issue. “Race card” is simply a term. I apologize if I offended someone.

        • davenj

          But how do you know race wasn’t relevant to this case? It took eleven hours for the jury to acquit her of some pretty serious crimes that had a lot of circumstantial evidence. Do you really think the fact that she had gender, racial, and looks-based privilege worked against her?

          The truth is that skin tone affects everything from rate of apprehension to rate of sentencing. This is independently verifiable through crime statistics, and suggests that Anthony’s skin color may have been advantageous.

          It’s true that this case was heavily circumstantial, but juries do convict people based on circumstantial evidence. They just happen to do so more often to people with skin that’s darker than Casey Anthony’s.

          And “race card” is offensive because it is a way of diminishing a group’s experience with prejudice, in the same way that “woman card” or “gay card” would be offensive. The term often comes up as a silencing tactic, i.e. “why do you have to PLAY the race card?”, as if the struggles of the racially disenfranchised are a game. The term is defined through the language of games, which is inherently offensive, as racial oppression is anything but a game.

          • http://feministing.com/members/chayes007/ Courtney

            I understand what you are saying. I never said that her skin color/looks/gender worked against her, but I don’t think they necessarily worked for her in this case. Zerlina made great points in this article by pointing out that the prosecution always has a heavy burden, especially in this particular case where there was a great lack of physical evidence and a lot of circumstances working against them.

            I was simply claiming that it’s unfortunate that people need to bring up other irrelevant issues instead of focusing on the fact that Caylee’s death was a tragedy.

            Zerlina also made a good point in a comment on here, stating something like “If you put the “racist” label on everything then it loses it’s meaning.” And that brings me back to my “race card” issue.

            If I personally call somebody out for a particular behavior and they say “It’s because I’m [insert race here] right?” I say they are playing the race card. Not because I believe racial oppression is a game, but because they are trivializing actual racial oppression by bringing race into an issue where race is simply irrelevant. Often, people use the argument “it’s because I’m [insert race here] right” because they know they can get away with it (this is my personal experience at least – I cannot speak for everybody). I think people brought that up in this particular case when it was completely unnecessary. “If Casey Anthony were black” shouldn’t matter – let’s instead move on to issues of actual racial oppression instead of focusing on what would have happened if Casey Anthony were black.

          • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

            Courtney, if people are telling you that they believe you said something racist, maybe you should step back and wonder why they think it’s racist instead of trying to force your White privilege and tell POC what “actual racial oppression” we should be more concerned with. Because I guarantee you, we would know more about it than you would.

      • http://feministing.com/members/chayes007/ Courtney

        That’s exactly what I did – I tried to understand why the term “race card” was viewed as racist and I gave my reasoning for it, and apologized if I came off as offensive. I wasn’t trying to “force my white privelege,” I was just stating an opinion like you and every other person on this blog. In fact I tried to ask why you thought that way and continue discussion and understand your point of view – I didn’t simply say you’re wrong because I disagree with you, which is what it feels like is happening to me.

        “I guarantee you, we would know more about it than you would” – That’s just an assumption. You have no idea where I’m from, what my background is, etc. Even if I am white, (which I never said I was) that doesn’t mean I haven’t been oppressed in some way or another. I can understand where you’re coming from and I tried to evaluate what I may have said wrong. Maybe I will never realize what it’s like to be racially oppressed, but I realize what it’s like to be oppressed. Everyone’s allowed to have an opinion on racial issues whether they’re a poc or not – because race does not mean black and white.

        I admit, I never realized the term “race card” was viewed as offensive because I’ve never had anybody call me out on it before. Now that you told me I will definitely think before speaking and choose my words more carefully.

  • http://feministing.com/members/arthug/ Art

    Anthony got off because she was a woman, she was defended by a feminist lawyer and played the sexual abuse card and now is free from murder

    “There are not a lot of jurors who are going to easily sentence a woman to death ”

    Interesting how you specifically mention woman. That’s right, jurors are much less likely to sentence a woman to death

    # Women account for about 1 in 10 (10%) of murder arrests annually;
    # Women account for only 2.0% (167 out of 8,292) death sentences imposed at the trial level

    now many police are biased and are arresting too many innocent women, but i got feeling it’s the other way around. What this case will hopefully do is shine a light on the obvious misandry in the legal system.

    What chance do any of you think a man would stand in the same situation? I wait for for feminists to fight for stronger convictions on guilty women, you know, equality and all that, but I’m not holding my breath

    • http://feministing.com/members/drewk/ drew

      Those statistics are at best misleading. All homicides are not created equal. More than likely, male offenders disproportionately commit the types of homicides that tend to incur death sentences. There are other factors to consider. Are female offenders more likely to strike a plea deal? Are they more likely to show contrition and remorse, after conviction? Your numbers are far too blunt to serve as any real evidence of systemic misandry in the application of the death penalty.

      • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

        Why would you make that assumption about the types of murders that men and women commit? Do you assume that men must commit more barbaric murders because the system decides they’re more oftne worthy of death? You could probably assumed, using the same logic, that Black men must commit particularly barbaric murders when they go after White women . . . otherwise why would they be more likely to get convicted and sentenced to death??

    • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

      Why is misogynistic nonsense like this allowed out of moderation? Why is this space — supposedly feminist and safe for women — safe instead for sexism and woman-hating?

      • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

        I’m wondering the same thing, too. Especially since Art registered less than 24 hours ago.

    • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      What a fascinating list of unsubstantiated statistics. Ok, I’m lying, this reads like standard anti-feminist “what about teh menz” type stuff. It really isn’t a fascinating list.

      I recall some years ago another child murder case that gripped New York City, that of Nixzmary Brown (a girl of mixed Latin and Middle Eastern heritage, if we want to keep in the discussion of race as a factor in these things). Though her stepfather administered the final, fatal beating death, her mother, also arrested as an accomplice for her failure to take action as the poor girl lay dying, was sentenced 14 more years than he, the actual murderer was. Though I’m not saying she should have gone scott-free, I always found that discrepancy in the sentencing perplexing. How might gender or race have factored into this outcome? Versus the outcome of Casey Anthony’s trial?

      Anyway, to substantiate this here’s Wikipedia’s overview of the case. For those who dislike Wikipedia, Google can give you a list of links from NY Times, USA Today, and other news sources, but they all contain the same sentencing information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Nixzmary_Brown

  • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

    So, you learned that in theory, a black woman in Casey Anthony’s position should have been acquitted on the evidence. And that’s certainly true. But did you learn anything about the actual evidence that the system is biased against black people? Did you learn anything about the figures on convictions of black people versus convictions of white people? Did you learn anything about the figures on convictions of poor people versus convictions of middle-class and wealthy people? Did you learn any damn thing except theory?

    The racism in the system is very real. So is the classism. Get your head out of the theory books and study some reality. Oh, and try listening to black people when they tell you about their experiences with the legal system, and how it’s most certainly not a justice system, not for everyone.

    This kind of article is another part of why Feministing has such a terrible reputation among feminists who aren’t straight, white, cis, and well-off.

    • http://feministing.com/members/onegrrlrevolution/ Rose

      I’m always on the lookout for new and different perspectives. What other blogs would you recommend?

      • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

        What kind of thing are you looking for? I go to Feministe and Geek Feminism, plus a whole bunch of Fat Acceptance, Trans Activist, and Anti-Racist sites.

  • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

    Another relevant and interesting question is what would have happened if Casey Anthony had been a man.

    • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

      A) No, it’s not.
      B) You’re a misogynist.
      C) Men regularly get off or get light sentences when there’s far more evidence that they killed their wife and kids.

  • http://feministing.com/members/krmart718/ Kandace

    I like what you had to say, and how you said it. :) maybe that’s not critical enough, but it’s true. Well said.

  • http://feministing.com/members/megamixmyheart/ Zoe

    To be completely honest, this article confused me. I wasn’t sure what the point of it was. It’s like saying “oh quick, look over here, I think I found something that ISN’T racist! Everybody gather round”, even though in the same article the author talks about the gross inequalities and oppression different people face daily at the hands of the ‘legal’ system.

    I’m curious about the intent of the article, because it just seemed to be trying to ignore the obvious race/ class/ social issues that will always be in every legal proceeding, especially one which was so high profile (and whether it will ever get to be ‘high profile’.

    And for those who want to talk about what would have happened if it had been a man in this situation, maybe that will be a more useful conversation to have when it is a man in that situation, because there will usually be other different factors in the situation; it will never just be “white man” instead of “white woman”. And if it ever happens, and is absolutely exactly the same, lets talk about it then.

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Zoe I was trying to focus the article on a specific issue. That doesn’t mean I don’t think those other things are true. A number of people on other blogs and on twitter made the point, “Casey would have went to jail if she were black,” and I disagreed and wanted to flesh that point out. I think it’s possible to do so without addressing every social ill in each article. I think there are some things that have to do with racial inequality and some things that do not. It’s important to only claim it when it is true and in this case as I laid out in my piece I don’t think that. If you put the “racist” label on everything then it loses it’s meaning.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson

      @Zoe

      “And for those who want to talk about what would have happened if it had been a man in this situation, maybe that will be a more useful conversation to have when it is a man in that situation, because there will usually be other different factors in the situation; it will never just be “white man” instead of “white woman”. And if it ever happens, and is absolutely exactly the same, lets talk about it then.”

      It is interesting to me that you are completely unwilling to entertain this possibility, and essentially meet it with the utmost scientific skepticism. I assume what you are responding to is, in essence, the possibility that Anthony’s having not only aroused the juror’s sympathy based on her race, but on her race COMBINED with her gender. One thing we know from criminal sentencing literature is that, when controlling for other factors, females are more likely to receive more lenient sentencing. Therefore, the suggestion that her gender may have acted in her favor seems quite plausible.

      Moreover, why is this suggestion inappropriate, whereas speculating about “what if” questions regarding her race is not? We certainly don’t have an identical case with a Black woman to compare to. I think you just don’t like entertaining the idea that criminal sentencing may be one of those ways in which gender hurts men, too. I think if we are willing to accept the 3rd wave notion that gender is bad for men, we need to think about questions like this and not simply dismiss them.

      • http://feministing.com/members/megamixmyheart/ Zoe

        Hey Matthew,
        I’m sorry if my comment was poorly written and ruder than I meant it to be. I never meant to imply that I didn’t think gender impacted on how Casey was treated, and you are also right that it was perhaps a bit inconsistent to talk about hypothetical differences in terms of the woman’s racial background, but not the persons gender.

        Also, I am not saying that I don’t think gender assumptions have negative and difficult implications for men.

        I do, however, find it difficult in feminist spaces to want to overly engage in discussions of masculinity and the difficulties a privileged position can bring. Even though I recognise that there are parts of the masculine construct that can definately be difficult. I just feel there is already a lot of focus and privileging of men’s positions, and ‘male privilege’ is referred to as a ‘privilege’ for a reason.

        And so I guess personally I find those conversations about its difficulties a bit draining. But if for you it is helpful to discuss, I hope you find really valuable conversations.
        Zoe.

        • honeybee

          But how can you truly analyze gender and gender equality if you only talk about women?

          It’s neccessary to deeply analyze both sides if you actually truly care about equality and an unbiased, balanced perspective.

          Frankly I think the problem is not talking enough about men and what it’s like to be a man, and not that we talk about them too much as you seem to suggest.

        • davenj

          The problem with this approach is that it denies the intersectional nature of kyriarchy, presuming that male privilege privileges equally or across the board, when this is flatly false. Black males do have male privilege, but their version of male privilege is much more likely to result in them ending up in prison. Poor males have male privilege, but again, their version is much more likely to result in a prison term.

          Male privilege, the notion that men are superior, more capable of reasoning, and less emotional, can often be beneficial. However, when it is applied in tandem with a lack of white privilege, the results can be disastrous, because people are asked to join notions about male superiority with brown inferiority, and the results are seen every day in our criminal justice system. Male privilege is so disadvantageous in those situations that being male makes those men more likely to have their lives SEVERELY curtailed.

          If feminism doesn’t engage in intersectional analysis it will find itself very lonely, indeed, because to acknowledge only one kind of privilege hierarchy at the expense of every other one will alienate most everyone except white, economically privileged, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied women, and even then only those women of that type who don’t recognize the nature of intersectionality.

          TL;DR: Tom Robinson’s male privilege in “To Kill A Mockingbird” isn’t exactly the important privilege dynamic at play.

  • http://feministing.com/members/say0anything9/ Amanda

    Some of the comments here make me want to throw up. Really, we get people using terms like “the race card” AND “the sexual abuse card” in the same post? This isn’t the Fox News website, people, it’s a feminist blog. Take your racist and sexist viewpoints elsewhere.

  • http://feministing.com/members/rachelpiazza/ Rachel Piazza

    I think it’s’ incredibly irresponsible to claim that race did not impact the decision in this case. Sure, one can say that if all things were the same, race wouldn’t have mattered. HOWEVER, if Casey Anthony were black, things simply wouldn’t have been the same. For instance…

    The case would never have gotten the media attention (as suggested by Leslie and others) if Casey Anthony wasn’t white (and might I add young and attractive as well) and if the victim in this case wasn’t a beautiful, middle class, white little girl. The jury selection was highly influenced by the level of media attention.

    Also, we have to see Casey Anthony’s acquittal within a social context. We know that African Americans are vastly overrepresented on death row. Clearly, race plays an integral role in death penalty sentences. Whether this has to do with racism, the ability to afford a competent attorney, or any other factor is irrelevant. Death penalty sentencing is inextricably tied to race. And yes, there are very few women on death row (so gender is also a factor). Anthony’s acquittal simply makes sense in this scenario.

    Thirdly, and not yet mentioned, the race of the victim in the case is also vastly important. The ACLU writes that, (n)ationally, studies consistently demonstrate that, everything else being equal, a defendant is approximately four times more likely to get the death penalty for killing a white person than for a black person. Isn’t it possible that the prosecution wouldn’t have even charged 1st degree murder if the victim hadn’t been cute, white Caylee? I’ve heard numerous times that if the state had charged a lesser crime, Casey Anthony would likely have been found guilty.

    It is very clear to me that race is a major player in this case, regardless of whether or not it is blatantly obvious. Too many times we look for these things to be out in the open, rather than digging under the surface to understand how race, class, sex, sexual preference, religion or any other factor influence the situation.

    • honeybee

      From what I’ve read they gave the jury the option to convict on lesser sentences such as manslaughter. So in effect they DID charge her lesser crimes.

      • http://feministing.com/members/rachelpiazza/ Rachel Piazza

        I’m no expert by any means. However, this is the logic that I’ve heard…

        “…there may have been a different result if the prosecutor had chosen other charges. ‘The prosecutor made the dreadful mistake of charging [Anthony] with first degree murder, essentially asking for the death penalty.’ …that made the jury look very closely at the evidence for any conviction.”

        http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/07/06/casey-anthony-dershowitz

  • http://feministing.com/members/courtroommama/ Courtroom Mama

    What they probably didn’t teach you in the first year of law school is that there is no such thing as objective truth in the courtroom. There are only versions of the story, and the jury ultimately gets to decide what the “truth” is (in fact, the root of the word verdict means “to tell the truth”). The path to this truth isn’t, as you may have been led to believe, a straightforward one. It is colored by a variety of factors, including whether a person ever makes it to court or takes a plea because the stakes of losing seem too high either to the defendant or the attorney. Or whether they have a truly zealous defense — which you treat as a throwaway hypothetical not worth considering, but is a harsh reality for black, Latino/a, and poor white defendants in our criminal prosecution system. Or whether the “easy call” of avoiding the death penalty would have been so easy if the defendant were black, considering the fact that black women have been considered unfit to parent–and likely to kill–their own children from slavery times all the way to the literal present day (remember those signs? The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb?).

    Casey Anthony was acquitted not because the prosecution failed to meet its burden, but because the jury decided that it failed to do so. There is a lot going on in the decisional space between the evidence and the verdict, and the statistics unquestionably show that race is part of the equation. That a criminal charge will stand or not stand simply because mens rea + actus reus + causation = crime is indeed something a first year law student, but not a defense attorney in practice, would believe.

    There is no way to definitively prove whether race was a conscious or unconscious consideration, but as other commenters have noted, even the fact that we refer to Casey and Caylee by their first names is a result of the fact that their story fit a certain media-ready narrative, of which race is certainly a part.

  • http://feministing.com/members/ak47/ a

    I just want to say thank you to those commenters who have pointed out that, indeed, race does play a role in this and it is undeniable. And to reiterate what Courtroom Mama said, there is no such thing as an objective truth. For more reading on The Law and Objectiveness, I recommend reading Mari Matsuda. How can we claim that the law is truly objective when it has largely been written BY and FOR a very specific population to the exclusion and suffering of many others, and when our system is so full of flaws that disproportionately have negative repercussions for a significant portion of our population?

  • http://feministing.com/members/shasty/ emmie

    Hey Zerlina, great article and I agree with some of the things on it. And as other posters have said however, if Casey Anthony had been black, the case would not have caused as much media attention as it had. I’m kind of curious though and want your opinion on two things; things that I have thought about. How big do you think the case would have been if little Caylee Anthony was a little boy instead? And how big would the media coverage have been if Casey Anthony was not as attractive looking as she is, including how pretty her daughter is/was?

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Emmie I definitely do not think the coverage would have been so extensive if Casey and her daughter were not white and also “attractive.” It’s possible even if Caylee were a boy there would have been a lot of coverage although the missing girls seem to get much more coverage I think because an innocent white daughter is seen as the most precious and her going missing is something that a lot of people feel strongly about. I’m not making a point about whether I think these facts are right or wrong or an overall point as to why this might be the case but the level of “attractiveness” of mother and daughter definitely played a role in the level of media interest and attention from the beginning of the story to the verdict.