With Liberty for Casey and Justice for...ummm...

Picture of Caylee Anthony

We have a legal system in America, not a justice system.

"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."  Mark 2:27

Like millions of others in America this week, I watched the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial being handed down.  Like just a handful of others, however, I was not surprised at her acquittal.  Yes, I think she's guilty of killing her young daughter and I would bet most every juror thinks so, too.  But I have realized for some time now that, with just a few exceptions, we no longer have a justice system.  We have a legal system.

There was no way within the legal system to convict Casey Anthony.  She lied to and withheld information from so many people at the beginning that by the time they did find her daughter it was too late to even determine a cause of death.  No matter that all the other pieces of the puzzle point to her guilt, you can't convict if there remains "reasonable doubt."  Well, if no one can say definitevely how when or where the child died, that has to create "reasonable doubt" when considering a murder conviction.  It's all about the letter of the law.  It is about legality, not justice.

We see this in our law all the time.  I abhor the aerial slaughter of wolves, for example.  And those interested in justice came to see that gunning down an animal from the air is hardly sportsmanlike behavior, especially after you have chased the poor thing in an airplane so that it is too exhausted to move.  You don't even have to hit a moving target.  The practice was made illegal in 1972.  However, because the language in the law said you couldn't shoot a wolf from an airplane, it became perfectly legal to to run the wolf ragged with an airplane, land, get out, and shoot the wolf from the ground.  An exception was made for necessary population control as well.  And so an unjust practice continues quite legally.

Way back in 1862, when the country was deciding how to pay for the Civil War, it was decided that it was fair and just to have the rich pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than the poor.  It is still the feeling that what Jesus said in Luke 12:48 is true, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  That is just.  But as we moved from asking "What is just?" to "What is legal?" loopholes in the tax code were found and exploited.  Now just talk of closing those loopholes that enable the rich to avoid paying much, if anything, in taxes is shutting down our government.

Books could be filled with such examples.  We have executed the innocent and freed the guilty, ravaged the earth and all that is within it, taxed the poor and coddled the rich, all with the law on our side.  We have a well-entrenched legal system, but where is justice?

Jesus encountered such a system in first-century Palestine.  The lawyers of the day, the Pharisees, had become almost exclusively focused on what was legal according to the law of Moses.  Jesus got into tons of trouble with them for reminding them that the intent of the law was justice.  Jesus broke the technical law by healing people on the Sabbath, and in doing so enacted justice.  He allowed his hungry disciples to pick and eat corn on the Sabbath, although doing that much work was technically forbidden.  In the above passage in Mark, he explains his actions be pointing out that in God's eyes, it is justice, love, and fairness that matters.  The law was created to serve the people, to ensure that they have access to justice, and not the other way around.

I don't blame you if you're upset about the Casey Anthony verdict.  But don't take out your anger on a messed up woman from a dysfunctional family.  I think it's probably hard enough just going through life as Casey Anthony.  Where our anger needs to be directed is at a system that gives preference to the law above justice, and those who profit from that status quo.  It should not be an anger that shoots up courtrooms, but an anger that is on the march to be sure that the "liberty and justice for all" part of our pledge is restored.

We begin, as we always should, with ourselves.  When do we parse what someone says very closely to get our way, when we know the intent of their words was different?  When have we failed to stand up for someone receiving unjust treatment in school or at work because, well, they DID break the rules.  When have we failed to call out unjust behavior because those doing the injustice are powerful?

If you want justice for Caylee Anthony and all the future Caylee Anthony's of the world, let go of seeking vengeance on Casey.  She's in God's hands now.  Let's instead hold our legislators accountable--to the law, sure, but only as it allows the people to be given justice.



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