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The “How Victims Are Supposed to Act” Standard

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Yesterday’s big tabloid story actually has some things in common with our discussion about the DSK prosecution yesterday.   Correct me if I’m wrong — I don’t claim to have followed the Anthony case closely — but it seems to be that the widely vilified Anthony jury acted in a very responsible manner.   Unlike people who assume that juries will inevitably make inferences according to completely arbitrary and meaningless standards of how victims are supposed to act, the Anthony jury — to its credit — ignored the sexist assumptions that seemed to constitute a disturbingly large percentage of the case against Anthony.

In an act of obvious comedy gold, the Daily Beast has given Marcia Clark a platform to explain why the Anthony jury was even worse than the one that acquitted a murderer despite actually overwhelming evidence largely because of her inept prosecution.   But what she (and, as far as I can tell, most people outraged about the verdict) chooses to emphasize makes me think that the jury was right:

As a matter of fact, the coverage we did see of the Casey Anthony case leaned heavily in favor of conviction. The photographs of a half-clothed Casey dancing in a Hot Body contest days after her daughter died, getting tattooed with the words “La Bella Vida” (Beautiful Life), Casey’s apparent celebration of freedom now that her baby was dead…

Seriously, a tattoo? The weight that people outraged by the verdict put on this sexist bullshit is a pretty strong signal that the prosecution didn’t have much of a case.   Some of Anthony’s behavior was (unlike this) legitimately odd and she was apparently dishonest in explaining her actions, but I think it was pretty reasonable for the jury to conclude that it’s not enough given the complete lack of physical evidence. Anthony may well have killed her child, but I don’t think the failure to convict here was a failure of the American jury system.  She was convicted of lying to the authorities, which the prosecution could prove, and acquitted of murder, which they couldn’t.

Finally, I’d like to note that the “person didn’t act like a victim is allegedly supposed to act” routine was also a major part of the case against Cameron Todd Willingham, which should tell you what you need to know about its value.

…on a related note, Nancy Grace is a really odious media figure.

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