Miami Law students and legal analysts recently gathered for a panel discussion about the courtroom antics and legal tactics of the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial.
Hosted by the Criminal Law Society (CLS), the discussion featured Stacey Honowitz, an Assistant State Attorney in the 17th Judicial District in Broward County and Mark Eiglarsh, a former Miami-Dade prosecutor and Miami Law adjunct professor. CLS president Karen Chrisman acted as moderator.
Honowitz and Eiglarsh both expressed a belief that Casey had murdered her daughter Caylee. Both were surprised by the outcome of the case, but Honowitz and Eiglarsh disagreed on whether or not the jury made the right decision when they came back with the not guilty verdict.
"I believe that the not guilty verdict came not because the jury believed their story, but because of the reasonable doubt clause," Eiglarsh said.
Honowitz disagreed. She believed the prosecutors made a few major mistakes. She explained it was the responsibility of the prosecutors to make sure that the jurors understood what "beyond a reasonable doubt" meant.
"People in general are confused about reasonable doubt," she added. She also believed it was a mistake to not empathize the lesser included offenses. "There was enough here to show aggravated child abuse. And if the death results from the abuse then its felony murder."
When asked if they believed the decision to seek the death penalty affected the outcome of the trial, both attorneys noted that in the history of murder trials where mothers are accused of killing their children, the death penalty has not been sought. The possibility of the death penalty "plays a big role back in the jury room" Honowitz said. Eiglarsh thought it was a strategic decision in order to select a "death-qualified jury."
Honowitz and Eiglarsh were also asked about the possibility of the passage of Caylee's law—proposed federal bill that would charge parents with a felony if they fail to report a missing child within 24 hours, or if they fail to report the death of a child within one hour.
Eiglarsh said he believes police would be inundated with calls from parents whose children were likely at a friend's house or decided to skate board an extra hour if the law was in place. Honowitz said "if you don't call your kid in missing, you should give up your license as a parent. There is good intention behind [Caylee's law], but it needs to be tweaked."
In the end both attorneys described the Casey Anthony murder trial as a "great law school case."