Casey Mania and the Talking Heads

A true headline among the flurry of stories posted on Yahoo following the Casey Anthony verdict: “Kim Kardashian weighs in.”

It’s fairly horrifying that anyone gives a rat’s a– about Kim Kardashian’s take on the Anthony case. On the other hand, she couldn’t be more clueless than some of the motor mouths who landed TV gigs as “legal experts” during the trial coverage.

Never have the airwaves and bandwidths of this country been so clogged with gasbags posing as seasoned courtroom veterans, or lightweight has-beens seeking to jump-start their careers.

High on Casey Mania, cable networks such as HLN were frantic to fill airtime with talking heads, and by the end of the trial you wondered if they were just yanking random lawyers out of the hallways and shoving them in front of the camera.

The prevailing tenor of the coverage, embodied by Nancy Grace and others, was that Anthony was guilty as sin of killing her daughter, Caylee. This wasn’t an unreasonable view, considering Anthony’s many lies, her busy social life after Caylee’s disappearance and the circumstantial evidence compiled by prosecutors.

Despite the acquittal, there remains no plausible set of circumstances to explain Caylee’s death that would not directly and criminally involve her mother.

So what went wrong with the jury? Nothing.

The public’s expectations were jacked up by all the TV yakking about this dreadful crime and the train-wreck of a mom accused of committing it. With some sharp exceptions, like Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, most of the “legal experts” continued shooting from the lip, feeding the hype.

But here’s what smart trial lawyers knew from the beginning: Proving Anthony guilty of first-degree murder would be very difficult.

In the shell-shocked outcry last week after the verdict was announced, many were comparing the surprise outcome to that of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The truth is, the Simpson prosecutors had much more evidence to work with, a veritable gold mine. They had a cause of death. They had a time of death. They had blood evidence, DNA, gloves and footprints. They had two intact bodies and an actual crime scene.

And still they lost the case.

Because it took so long to find Caylee’s remains, Anthony’s prosecutors couldn’t tell the jury where, when or how she had died. Duct tape on the skull, chloroform residue in a car trunk — that’s enough for a theory, but it’s not a smoking gun.

Then there was the question of motive. For any experienced homicide detective, the Simpson crime scene had jealous ex-husband written all over it.

But in the Anthony trial, jurors were asked to believe that this woman murdered her daughter simply so she could go out partying with her peeps. Sicker things have happened, but it’s a tough sell without credible witnesses who heard Casey say she wanted her daughter dead.

Given what they had to work with, prosecutors did a solid job. Obviously so did Jose Baez, the much-maligned lead defense lawyer for Anthony. It’s funny to see the so-called experts backpedaling in their estimation of both sides now that the case is over.

Shortly before the verdict came down, one row of TV legal eagles sat there predicting that the prosecution would be helped by the fact that most of the jurors were women, and women would be tougher on Anthony because of the nature of the crime.

So much for that bit of wisdom.

Watching a trial on television isn’t the same as watching it from the jury box, where there’s no background commentary or dramatic theme music during the breaks.

However, smart lawyers and judges will tell you that a different jury could have just as easily convicted Anthony, just as a different jury could have convicted Simpson. That’s how it goes.

What happens next is more predictable: Casey Anthony enters the low realm of celebrity.

She’ll get a ghostwriter and do a best-selling book, and possibly have her own reality show. On the advice of her attorneys, she will either find Jesus or volunteer to work with abused kids. She will be strongly counseled not to start dating Alex Rodriguez or Charlie Sheen.

And at some point, she’ll sit down with Diane Sawyer or Oprah, and we’ll get to hear a brand new version of poor Caylee’s death.

Millions and millions of people will watch the interview, after which a group of big-haired experts will tell us what it all means. Don’t be shocked to see a Kardashian on the panel.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.

(c) 2011, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.


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