Once we had a rather infamous rape trial. Five young men, some of them sons of influential families, met a young woman at a downtown Tampa bar and later took her home.
A jury heard testimony about how one of them slipped her LSD and then sexually assaulted her while the others laughed. One of the "boys" — as they were called, despite the fact that they were all adults — took photos.
Three of them got immunity for their statements. One pleaded to lesser charges. Carl Allison was the last defendant standing.
The jury ultimately convicted him of tampering with evidence, giving the woman LSD and stealing her driver's license, but acquitted him of the most serious charges of sexual battery.
In the end, no one was convicted of rape in Tampa's infamous rape case.
Outrage? Yes. These were young men of privilege, and the victim's character was not spared in the trial. "Money talks, rapists walk," protesters chanted at the courthouse. A death threat came after the case made Hard Copy.
Someone in the newsroom asked what I thought, since I watched the trial from start to finish. And I said if I were a juror and heard only what they heard, if I had seen the witnesses, lawyers and evidence as they had, I might have voted not guilty, too. A woman I worked with didn't speak to me for weeks.
Jurors in the Casey Anthony murder trial are being vilified for finding her not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. They have been called stupid — and worse.
Because we know she did it, right? How could they not?
But the jurors sat through every moment of testimony for six weeks of the trial. A lot of us followed the case closely, but it's not the same as sitting in the jury box, disregarding what the judge tells you to disregard, hearing the evidence, listening to the all-important jury instruction on what is "reasonable doubt."
I remember another trial not for the crime but the jurors in it. While deliberating a manslaughter charge, they sent the judge a note: Two voted guilty, it said, one voted not guilty, and the other three jurors were willing to go either way. Either way, with someone dead and someone's life on trial.
The Casey Anthony jury did not cop out. Those who spoke afterward clearly want the world to understand they went not on emotion but on evidence — or the lack of it — and the law. Jurors swear an oath to do that.
And speaking of the law, it's fair to say most of us observers didn't sit and listen to the judge explain the nuances and parameters of it in this case.
Jurors said they did not think she was innocent, but they did not have enough to convict her. Imagine how much easier it would have been for them to say: Oh, she's probably guilty. She's certainly a reprehensible person for how she acted when her child disappeared. But "beyond a reasonable doubt" is a high bar that applies equally to the innocent and probably guilty. And lawyers who have been around will tell you that sometimes guilty people walk in a system that is set up to keep innocent ones out of prison.
Outrage at the death of a little girl is absolutely understandable. So is outrage that someone did something terrible and got away with it.
But unless we sat with them for those six weeks of civic duty, hearing what they heard, blaming the jury is not fair.