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Casey Anthony and Martha Stewart

July 8, 2011

The world is agog and aghast over the acquittal of Casey Anthony, who was charged with killing her daughter, Caylee (in case you haven’t heard).  Some people are saying the justice system worked and other people are saying it failed.

It definitely failed but not for the reason you might think.

It’s not about whether Casey is guilty or innocent of homicide.  That issue was properly decided by a jury of her peers and that part worked whether you agree with the decision or not—they couldn’t prove she did it, the evidence was lacking, live with it—but so far not one of the four billion talking-head legal analysts spewing their drivel on television and radio has pointed out that Casey now joins the growing list of people who were innocent of the underlying crime but found guilty of misleading the police.

That’s the part that shows something is wrong with the justice system.

Remember Martha Stewart?  People love to say she went to prison for insider trading but she didn’t.  That, in fact, would be impossible because Martha Stewart was not an insider.  Unfortunately, she didn’t understand that fact so when the SEC came around asking questions about why she sold her stock in ImClone Systems, instead of telling them to go suck eggs (“I got a tip, now get lost.”), she lied to them.  She was prosecuted for and convicted of obstruction of justice... a fancy legal term for lying.

To put this “crime” in perspective, she saved herself $56,000 (What is that, one month of shrimp cocktails for her?) by selling ImClone stock one day early because of a tip from her broker.  Bernie Madoff stole $65 billion while people were consistently reporting him to authorities for shady bookkeeping but nobody could get the SEC to pay any attention.

They were too busy going after Martha Stewart to worry about a $65 billion ponzi scheme.

When the Founders designed our legal system, their main concern was protecting American citizens from the tyranny of government.  That’s why we have trial by juries instead of the English system where judges ask questions and determine the verdict.  Colonial Americans had direct experience of the fact that English judges, who received their positions and their salaries from the king, tended to side with the king (surprise surprise), and tended to give less than a rat’s ass about the poor slobs on trial.

Verdicts rendered by juries of peers were supposed to fix that.

But lately our government seems to be oppressing us even when they can’t convict us of actual crimes.  They’ve invented some nasty little end-arounds to bypass and abrogate our rights.  What they do is take innocent citizens and run them ragged, throwing the full weight and force of government-financed legal machinery at them, destroying their ability to earn a living, depleting their financial resources with legal expenses, sometimes locking them up in prison for years awaiting trial, until they inevitably make some kind of mistake.  Then the government prosecutes them for the mistake whether there was an underlying crime or not.

That’s what just happened to Casey Anthony.  And that’s what happened to Martha Stewart, Barry Bonds, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, too.

The government’s legal machinery harassed and pursued Barry Bonds for eight years and couldn’t get a conviction for one single underlying crime, but by golly they managed to convict him of obstruction of justice.  In Barry’s case, it wasn’t even lying that finally got him.  His “obstruction” charge arose from giving some government hack an “evasive answer” while he was under oath seven years earlier.  Ask yourself this question: “Could I go seven years under government attack without eventually giving an evasive answer or getting something wrong?”

That’s what Libby did, get something wrong.  Maybe.  There’s no way to be sure but he went to prison for it anyway.  Not for any sort of underlying crime, but because his answer to one question in the midst of a daylong series of questions about the timing of events that happened two years earlier disagreed with the answer the government got from television journalist Tim Russert.  Why they didn’t indict Tim Russert is anybody’s guess.  Maybe he was wrong and Libby was correct.  Apparently they decided journalists are more trustworthy than politicians... like hammerhead sharks are nicer than great whites.

Basically, Russert and Libby disagreed about when they had a conversation about Valerie Plame and the government decided Russert was so irreproachable that Libby must be lying.  Patrick Fitzgerald, the publicity-hungry U.S. Attorney who was running the special investigation into the Plame affair (and finding nothing resembling a crime to prosecute) indicted and prosecuted Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff at the time.  What better way to get your name in the newspapers?

Fitzgerald has subsequently made a habit of this nefarious use of government power in high-publicity cases.  If you remember, the first trial of Rod Blagojevich ended with the jury willing to convict on only one of twenty four charges... obstruction of justice.  How can justice be obstructed if there is no underlying crime?

Here’s what Fitzgerald had to say about prosecuting Libby for lying when there was no underlying crime about which to lie:
“The truth is the engine of our judicial system.  If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost... if we were to walk away from this, we might as well hand in our jobs.”
His self-righteous attitude about the truth would be more believable if the government was in the habit of being truthful and if government prosecutors weren’t constantly using their offices to advance their careers and score political points instead of fighting crime.

Former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was prosecuted in the midst of his reelection campaign in 2008, found guilty six days before the election, and consequently lost the election narrowly.  His loss gave Democrats the super-majority they needed to pass Obamacare and a number of other destructive pieces of legislation so it’s fair to say this case changed the history of the United States.  Trouble is, the government’s entire case was based upon withheld evidence and false testimony created by the U.S. Attorney’s office.  Six months after his conviction, the new Obama Justice Department filed a motion to set aside the verdict because of what the judge called “the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct” he’d ever seen.

The government legal team was lying through their teeth but you won’t see any of them in prison for “obstruction of justice” and the damage they caused to Ted Stevens, the state of Alaska, and the United States is permanent.

What happened to Ted Stevens is similar to what happened to Tom DeLay, former Republican congressman and House Majority Leader from 2003 through 2005.  DeLay was forced to resign because of persistent and arguably unfounded investigations by a virulently partisan Democrat county prosecutor named Ronnie Earle, who spent years trying to indict DeLay on charges that were so scurrilous and outrageous that even grand juries under his control wouldn’t do it.  Keep in mind the famous aphorism of the legal profession: “A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”

Ronnie Earle apparently isn’t a good prosecutor because he failed to get indictments again and again.

But finally, in 2005, Earle managed to get a grand jury to agree to an indictment and Tom DeLay was forced to resign from office—a top U.S. congressman brought down by some podunk local prosecutor with nothing but a grudge and the power of the government to destroy people with legal harassment.

At some point, while Americans were napping in the sun and watching sitcom reruns and tittering at politicians’ sexual peccadilloes, our legal system was commandeered by thugs and would-be tyrants, and if Casey Anthony’s trial teaches us any kind of lesson, it’s that we are no longer innocent until proven guilty.

The way it works now, the punishment starts with the indictment and you’re guilty even after the jury finds you not guilty.


From Reno, Nevada, USA       

July 8, 2011 - I agree! I still know that a child was murdered. I have no interest in weather the mother is guilty or not. No matter what Casey Anthony is "not guilty" even if she later confesses. I find it disgusting that nobody cares that the child's murder is still unresolved, but the media and citizens throughout the world only care of what will happen to Casey Anthony and what will she do for money or how her life will forgo. The bottom-line is that this was a murder case and nobody gives a shit about the victim. (Did you 6months ago) - Joe N., California

July 8, 2011 - If they don't punish people for lying then nobody will tell the truth to the police and they won't solve any crimes. - H.P., Florida
J.P. replies: And if prosecutors throw the book at people who get their story wrong, then nobody will talk to the police at all.  They’ll just remain silent and call a lawyer, who will advise them to answer all questions by saying, "I don’t remember."  If Libby had done that, he never would have gone to prison.  Prison is what Libby earned by trying to answer the prosecutor’s questions.



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