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Was Casey Anthony's Jury Misled (By the Prosecutors)?

Posted: 07/19/11 04:56 PM ET

The dust has begun to settle on the Casey Anthony saga. She has been released from prison, having been acquitted on the capital murder charge. The public will continue to believe that the jury is dumb -- the man on the street "knows better" -- and that she is guilty as sin, period: that she literally got away with murder (the insignificant guilt verdict on the false statement charges is seen as meaningless).

In time, as the tabloids seem to opine, Casey may hook up with some trailer trash slug. Maybe he'll marry her expecting, as is likely, that she can be his meal ticket -- write her book, pose for Playboy, and star in a reality show. And most likely the public is correct: Either Casey did kill her little girl, or she took elaborate, brazenly inhumane measures to cover up the child's death in such a sordid way that many may see it as tantamount to having actually killed her.

Because of this world view, the world, we assume, will likely pay no attention to a story buried in the New York Times on July 19. In the story, software designer John Bradley, a former Canadian police sergeant who specializes in forensic computer analysis and was a key prosecution witness at the Anthony trial, reported that his trial testimony, in which he essentially asserted that the Anthony computer was used 84 times searching for the word "chloroform" (claimed by the prosecution throughout the trial as the cause of death), was seriously mistaken. Bradley, having reconstructed his expert work and analysis of the issue after he testified, admitted that the analysis offered was wrong -- there had been only one search for "chloroform" on the Anthony computer. Moreover, according to Bradley's post-trial interview with the prosecution, he made this acknowledgement of his error to the police and the prosecutor's office while the trial was still in progress. And yet, astonishingly, according to the Times story, neither the defense, the judge, nor the jury was ever alerted to Bradley's recantation.

But as we see it, the public simply won't care about this dramatic revelation even if completely accurate. Why? Even though this disclosure might be quite relevant in determining Casey Anthony's guilt, the public has already convicted her. To the court of public opinion, this is simply a situation of "no harm, no foul." Even without the extra 83 chloroform website views, and the implications of what the absence of that evidence means, Casey Anthony is guilty, guilty, guilty!

There is nothing to prevent the public from taking that position, however unenlightened or influenced by a mob-like mentality. The folks on the street do make determinations outside the courtroom based on God-given common sense considerations that have nothing to do with courtroom protocols and rules. For these folks, rules against hearsay evidence and lie detectors are silly. Defendants accused of crimes who refuse to testify and proclaim their innocence are guilty. It's as simple as that.

But what about the prosecutors? How can it be that, if Bradley is telling the truth on his recantation that he supposedly reported to the Anthony prosecutors while the case was still ongoing, that the defense wasn't told about it? How can it be that such clearly exculpatory evidence was hidden from the defense. Prosecutors, unlike the man on the street, do have an ethical and legal duty to come clean when something of this importance comes to their exclusive doorstep, especially when the stakes are so high and the potential of a death penalty is implicated.

In our experience, there's a simple answer. Most likely, the prosecutors concluded early on, and probably rightly so, that Anthony was a killer or at least brazenly covered up her baby's death. Guilty, period. Everything else that would be raised by the defense side would be a smokescreen -- a brazen effort to obscure reality. Why arm a bunch of irresponsible defense lawyers with the ability to create a smoke and mirrors sideshow that would have nothing to do with the truth of Casey's guilt? She needs to fry! Indeed, that is the typical mindset when prosecutors disobey the dictates of Brady v. Maryland (the famous 1963 Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence) even when defendants are charged with horrendous crimes -- and especially when the trials are so high profile.

Still, prosecutors have to follow the rules. The prosecutors were required to disclose Bradley's information. That they failed to do so could theoretically subject them to professional discipline. But does anyone seriously believe that this will happen? Prosecutors are hardly ever subject to discipline for their misconduct, and the failure to disclose the Bradley information is surely misconduct. But if prosecutors are not disciplined for not disclosing exculpatory evidence that would exonerate an innocent man (see our 4/1/11 post "Cops are Stupid, But Prosecutors Are Smart" re: the Supreme Court's decision in Connick v. Thompson), why should prosecutors get disciplined for not disclosing exculpatory evidence when they and everyone else believes the defendant is guilty?