The Casey Anthony case is all over the news this week. I did not follow the case closely, but Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has a good article about the case and the criminal law in today’s Wall Street Journal. One thing I do know is that this highly-publicized trial will reinforce a commonly held view about criminal justice in America–that juries weigh evidence and decide whether the accused is guilty or not. As I note in the July issue of Reason magazine, trials are infrequent events in our legal system.
Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that when the government accuses someone of a crime, the case typically proceeds to trial, where a jury of laypeople hears arguments from the prosecution and the defense, then deliberates over the evidence before deciding on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. This image of American justice is wildly off the mark.