In a live video Q&A yesterday , Rabbi Brad Hirschfield answered your questions regarding Casey Anthony’s capital murder trial. He touched a bit a on each side’s duty to provide various narratives on Anthony’s level of guilt. Included below is the video as well as some excerpts from his responses.
One reader wrote in, asking, “This case definitely reminds me of ancient Greek tragedy, and not only in the theatricality of it. Indeed we have this lovable and very vulnerable child dead and mystery surrounding it. This captures our interest and a desire for justice, or at least a story that is understandable. The community points to the mother, and yet, Ms Anthony's parents themselves seem all too willing to sacrifice Casey for justice for Caylee. There seems to be something so grievously wrong in the storytelling from all angles, that one simply does not know what to think.Do you think an accurate account of what happened will emerge someday? The process of law seems not to have served up a coherent tale; what spiritual processes might offer up a more plausible explanation?”
Wow. I love contextualizing this as a Greek tragegy. I think that in addition to all the other things that this reader points out, this is an opportunity for people to seek out coherence, to seek out an explanation, for what’s otherwise beyond our understanding. And we’re always drawn to stories that provide us an opportunity to do just that. To make sense of the non-sensical. But I think it’s also true that the adverserial nature, the necessarily adverserial nature of the justice process means that rather than one coherent story emerging, each side is going to offer up multiple stories, trying to achieve its own edge. The defense simply needs to create enough doubt so that people will not be able to convict and it’s really important to remember that the issue in an American court is not that you are found innocent, simply that you are found not guilty. The prosecution, obviously, has a much tougher job. They have to demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and to create a coherent narrative to be able to do that. The fact that the reader doesn’t see that probably means, at least from their perspective, that the prosecution has not done a great job. So, I don’t think that the process of law, as the reader refers to it, not serving up a coherent tale is a shortfall in the justice system. It’s simply not its job.
In response to a reader question about the trial and media ethics, in which the reader writes, “Is it ethically appropriate for the national media to devote so much -- or any -- attention to the Casey Anthony case? Why should she receive national attention when there are regularly similar cases going on throughout the country? Are we unnecessarily dragging Casey's parents through a media circus? Is this tabloid journalism?”
“Well, here’s the thing questioner. The moment you ask that question and the moment I begin to answer it, we are part of the circus. Now, I’m willing to do that and assume that together we can make this circus a little bit better. But we are a part of the circus and need to admit it. Because at the end of the day, the national media devotes attention to this case because the nation is fascinated by it. So I think that in the end if everyone said, “We’re not going to listen when reporters write about or speak about this case, we’re going to pay no attention,” it’s amazing how quickly the case would go away. But I think this case is about certain elemental issues that are deeply fascinating to people, so that’s not likely to happen. Instead, I think what we have to do, is ask why we’re so interested.”
To see more video and additional responses, please check out the chat page here .