Many Americans watched as Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her own child, was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter recently in Orlando.
And while about two-thirds of Americans believe that Anthony was guilty of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, according to a recent Gallup poll, the fact is that her jury found her not guilty of the crimes. The verdict has even caused violence, as a Florida man was arrested after striking a woman after an argument about the verdict, Florida Today reported.
Perhaps more than any other type of crime on the books, murder can evoke strong emotions from not only the families of the defendant and victim, but the public as well. The Anthony case shows just how involved people unrelated to the case can become after news media involvement in a criminal case.
Anthony was charged with killing her daughter in 2008 after failing to report her missing. Her defense team sought to show that the girl died accidentally by drowning in the family swimming pool.
While the state proved at trial that she lied to law enforcement — four counts punishable as misdemeanors in Florida — prosecutors couldn't prove she was guilty of first-degree murder or manslaughter, two other charges the state sought to prove. The state was seeking the death penalty, but Anthony will be released after serving jail time.
Anthony's attorneys believed that the pervasive media attention during the death penalty trial was prejudicial to Anthony's case. And while she may have been tried as guilty in the media and in the public's opinion, the only opinion that counts is that of the jury, which found her not guilty.
In Alabama, murder means intentionally taking the life or causing the death through gross recklessness. Murder can also be charged if someone dies while committing certain violent crimes. Manslaughter, however, is a charge that means someone died while another person acted recklessly or in the heat of passion.
Manslaughter can be punished in Alabama by two to 20 years in prison, but murder can be punished by a life sentence or even the death penalty. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, there are 203 people currently on Death Row.
In Alabama, there are several recognized defenses to murder, such as self-defense, defense of others and provocation. But in any murder case, simply attacking the state's case may be the best defense of the crime.
A competent and diligent Birmingham criminal defense lawyer will extensively study the eye witness statements made to detectives, review police reports for inaccuracies and contradictions and look at alibi defenses and other factors that may disprove the defendant committed the crime. It's also important to file many motions, including motions that seek to limit the amount of evidence, or a statement made by the defendent to police.
In any criminal case, but especially murder cases, statements to police can be detrimental to a defendant. Rarely do statements help a defendant because police are able to lie to defendants in order to get a confession. They can also be used against the defendant at trial and prosecutors can use their evidence to disprove what the defendant told detectives.
These charges are the most serious in our criminal justice system and must be defended with the most aggression compared to any other crime. If you or a loved one faces murder charges, contact an experienced Birmingham criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Previous Blog Entries:
Casey Anthony attorney: ‘She did not kill her child', by Scott Stump, Today
Argument over Casey Anthony verdict lands Melbourne Beach man in jail, by Patrick Peterson, Florida Today