Yesterday afternoon, people across North America eagerly awaited the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, the legal saga which has been dubbed the latest, ‘case of the century’. The world anxiously waited for the jury of 7 women and 5 men to hand out a guilty sentence. Legal correspondents debated the case, not whether she was guilty or innocent, but whether she would be found guilty of first or second degree murder or manslaughter. While Anthony undoubtedly lied about a plethora of things, the onus on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony killed her daughter was not met in the eyes of the jury. When the verdict, not guilty, was handed down, the public was outraged. People took to online forums, including twitter, to share their disbelief and anger. These reflections often called into question the validity of the current legal system.
While popular opinion believes that the purpose of the legal system is to protect the victims of crime, victims, in fact, have little rights during the process of a trial. Victim’s rights are often ignored or de-valued in comparison to the rights of the accused. A victim does not have a representative at a criminal trial, as the prosecution is actually arguing on behalf of the state. (In Canada, the Crown Attorney argues on behalf of the Queen.) Often, victims can walk away from the process with little sense of justice being served. This sentiment was echoed last night with a symbolic movement of ‘porch lights on for Caylee at 9 p.m.’ that swept across social networking sights, in an attempt to honour the young victim, despite the lack of justice that was served up for her.
This is an important element of the legal system for young women (our primary readership) to be aware of. This overwhelming feeling of injustice is also associated to the victim’s experience with the legal system in cases of rape and sexual assault. It is statistically proven that only 10% of all sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement, and only 4% of those reported cases garner a conviction. Victim’s rights are supposed to be protected, but the reality does not reflect this. These victims are often de-valued within the process, forced to re-live their traumatic experience and have their moral fibre called into question.
I bring this point forward in order to get us thinking. As a society, we were outraged by the lack of justice that Caylee Anthony was given, as we should. As a society, we should feel that same outrage toward all instances of legal injustice. This sentiment of outrage allows us the opportunity to really reflect upon the current state of affairs within the legal system. We need to advocate for victim’s rights and rally behind legal procedure that protects the integrity of the victim.