CNN’s Art Harris on TALK BACK Live in ’95, before O. J. acquital
By Art Harris, The Bald Truth, (c) www.artharris.com, all rights reserved
Imagine Caylee Anthony squeeling with delight, as she blows out six candles on a birthday cakeâ€”her own. That’s what might have been today, had she not been found dumped in a swamp near her home in Orlando, Florida.
With her mother acquitted on murder charges and now entertaining million dollar deals from the likes of Hustler magazine, her birthday is a reminder of raw wounds left by a shocking not guilty verdict and exposed a justice system that some critics say favors criminals — and killers.
I can only compare it to the gasps heard after O. J. Simpson was acquitted for a double murder linked by slam dunk DNA evidence in 1995, when I was investigating the case for CNN and breaking most of the network exclusives with a team of crack producers.
That verdict sparked outrage across the country among white viewers when a majority black jury cited reasonable doubt, exposing the country’s frightening racial divide not long after the Rodney King beating and riots in LA.
It was the culmination of a Dream Team drama that attacked prosecution witnesses, the cops and racial angst towards the LAPD, the FBI lab and the validity of forensic evidence, including DNA.
Johnny Cochran sidekick F. Lee Bailey once told me the strategy was “the three Cs: contamination, conspiracy and corruption,” and it worked. In jury selection, they chose African American women with sons or friends who had experienced rough treatment in police encounters; any juror with high school math or science was booted.
Ever since, lawyers like Jose Baez have used the O.J. playbook to sow the seeds of doubt among jurors, and once again, it worked.
Now, Caylee’s birthday.
It conjures killer flashbacks, rubbing salt in raw wounds of millions in mass mourning…and bitter about that verdict; the inevitable link to Simpson is often made, with experts debating whether the justice system is a bust and how to fix a jury system that allowed two presumably guilty people to walk.
In Casey’s case, the nature of outrage is shared by millions of mothers and grandmothers obsessed with her case, a communal anger that has spawned ugliness and death threats against the acquitted Tot Mom…
Such a lingering cloud of hatred raises serious questions about a new lynch mob mentality in America, especially among those who admit an unavenged horror and an unquenchable thirst for justice.
After all, they say, a two year old girl was found dumped in a swamp, with much evidence — but not enough to convince a jury — that pointed to Casey as the killer, a mother who lied repeatedly about what happened.
The case is still “a mess,” according to Judge Belvin Perry, who has yet to decide about whether she will have to serve probation in Florida, or at all, over her conviction for check fraud, perhaps fighting the urge to get even for prosecutors who lost the case. As you read this, a birthday event is happening in Orlando, a memorial march, with teary mourners taking bouquets and prayers to the swamp where she was dumped.
With storm clouds that won’t go away, The Bald Truth wants to know what elements you feel link the public trials of two centuries and lessons that could be used to improve the criminal justice system?
That was one question put to a panel of experts the day after O.J. Simpson was acquitted in 1995, including me, when CNN’S show, Talk Back Live, assembled a round table of post verdict experts to talk about crime victims’ anger and angst, including the parents of Nicole Brown Simpson who told me “they would just die” if the unthinkable happened–if O. J. were acquitted and they had to turn over their daughter’s children –their grandchildren–to a killer Dad.
As for the other victim’s family, the Goldmans were just plain uncomprehending that a man who had sliced and diced their son, could go free, especially when blood at the crime scene contained the victimsâ€”and Simpson’sâ€”DNA…also found in blood in his white Bronco.
But like Anthony, the forensic evidence was not enough to win the jury.
Take a listen as yours truly, then a CNN Special Assignment correspondent (with big goofy glasses) who broke most of the network’s exclusives on the case with his team of crack producers, is joined by Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, and top Atlanta criminal lawyers Mark Kadish and Ed Garland, to explore the aftermath of the trial of the last century and its implications.
If you were outraged then, please share if you got over it and how, and for those still upset about the Casey verdict, let us know how you are dealing with those feelings?