In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, small-time con man Verbal Kint spins an elaborate tale about a Turkish criminal mastermind and murderer named Keyser Soze, whom few have ever seen and whose very existence is doubted. At the end of the film, the investigators discover too late that Kint’s story was largely a highly-detailed fabrication, made up almost entirely and on the spot from cues he spotted around the office in which he had been interrogated. He was released and, in one of the all-time most fascinating cinematic shockers, we see him walking away and transforming sinisterly into his Keyser Soze persona.
I love getting duped in movies. Getting duped in real life is a different story. Does the above sound eerily familiar to the fantastical tales we heard throughout the highly publicized Casey Anthony trial? The difference is that the movie is fiction meant for our enjoyment, while the murder of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony is very, very real. By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the “Not Guilty” verdict and, like me, have expressed thoughts and emotions about the jury’s decision and the performance of the legal teams. One camp celebrated jubilantly while the other walked away in sadness and disgust.
I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one on t.v. I tried my darnedest to avoid being the judge presiding over the Court of Public Opinion. However, I longed for answers – for Caylee, the Anthony family, and society – and I was utterly disappointed. The truth did not prevail because the truth was so completely mangled from the beginning that no one could determine right from wrong or up from down. From the moment the world became enraptured by the images of that little girl, I’ve watched tragedy turn to train wreck. I’ve seen a trial become a three-ring circus. And Casey was the ringmaster as she spat out lie after lie after lie.
As the trial progressed, I kept thinking that surely common sense would prevail. Surely the jury would realize that an innocent person does not tell outrageous lies for seemingly no reason. No, an innocent person tells the truth even when it’s difficult and makes them look like a less than stellar parent. An innocent person takes the stand and pleads for someone to understand what happened. Whatever else she did, Casey lied and she failed to report her child missing for a whole month while she lived a carefree lifestyle. She broke humanity’s most sacred trust, the selfless love of a mother for her child.
Interestingly, my obsession over the case led to a little light reading on women who kill their children. According to a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children study of murdered children in the United States, mothers who murdered their children disposed of their bodies in a distinctively womb-like manner. The study found that some victims were submerged in water and others were found carefully wrapped in plastic. Furthermore, the study also described how all the victims’ bodies were found within ten miles of their family home.
Ultimately my disappointment came with the realization that trials are not based on intuition or even logic and precedent. With no official cause of death, no murder weapon, and no witnesses, the jury was left with a whole bunch of emotion and a little thing called “burden of proof.” The harsh reality is that the jury did not have to think she was INNOCENT or even believe the defense’s cockamamie accidental drowning story. Instead, the jurors simply had to question whether the prosecution proved without a shadow of a doubt that she did it with her own hands. This will be something that haunts both the jurors and the prosecution (and perhaps even the defense) for the rest of their lives.
Yes, this case hit a nerve for many people who are now reeling. There is no resolution to the terrifying story, no slaying of the dragon before the credits roll. We are empty, and emptiness soon gives way to rage. We are angry that Casey was not found guilty because most of us, especially those of us who are mothers, feel so strongly that she was indeed responsible for Caylee’s death and feel helpless that we can’t do anything about it. My head knows that a conviction wouldn’t have balanced the tragedy, nor would it have yielded any of the often talked about “justice” for Caylee. But my heart wants someone to blame.
So who do we blame?
Hatred has spewed forth in Casey Anthony’s direction and I can only believe this will intensify upon her release. Her judgment is not complete and, fair or unfair, she will not have the “Bella Vita” she so desired. Do we blame the system? Perhaps. The difficult part of this is that we can’t applaud the system when it produces the result we desire and then bash it when it doesn’t. Do we blame the jurors? I’ve heard many people express anger toward the jurors, yet I can’t bring myself to blame them. The defense was clear about distinguishing between moral judgments and what the evidence tells us…they even told them it’s okay to think she is an accomplished liar and slut, but that there is no proof she is also a murderer. I am eager to hear from the jurors when they begin to talk to the media. Until then, I respect their privacy as I know this was simply an awful experience.
This brings me to the parents. Do we blame the parents? Much has been said about the Anthony family’s dysfunction and that the lies did not begin or stop with Casey. While I have always felt so much sadness watching Cindy and George Anthony as they dealt with an extraordinary and very scary situation, a memory from my youth keeps popping into my head as an important point. My mom was an elementary teacher and, after school, I always walked from my high school to her elementary school. One day while I waited to depart for home, my brother’s teacher showed up and revealed that my brother had failed to turn in a major project. She was offering use of the “teacher code” so my mom could talk to him and get the project turned in the next day. With anguish on her face and tears in her eyes, my mom was quick to reject the offer. “Give him a zero,” she said. Later she told me that many parents rescue their kids in seemingly innocuous situations, but the unintended consequence is that they learn to approach life as a “victim” in every situation and develop a life-long sense of entitlement.
I wonder what Casey’s parents did when she was 8 and didn’t turn in her homework? Certainly they didn’t punish or report her when she stole checks or their vehicle at age 22. They’ve done everything they can to protect her, even going back on damaging statements they made when they first found out about Caylee’s disappearance. Cindy clearly committed perjury with her testimony about being the searcher of “chloroform” on the computer. Please know I don’t blame them for the death of Caylee and God only knows what I would do in the same situation. But I do believe they have some culpability for Casey’s behavior and I also believe they know that. George wouldn’t have attempted suicide a few years ago if this was not the case. The next few weeks will be extremely telling, as I’m curious as to where Casey will go upon release and how the trial’s destruction will influence each Anthony life as they move forward.
There is no happy ending to this story. Even after writing this blog, I feel empty, sad and like we were all witness to something extremely unjust and full of trickery. And this brings me back to the closing scene of The Usual Suspects. As Keyser flees from the police station to resume his life of crime, he reiterates a quote from Charles Baudelaire, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
I believe, do you?
Rest in peace, Caylee Marie Anthony.