Americans were stunned at the murder acquittal of Caylee Marie Anthony's mother. We cried, "Where's justice for the pint-sized 2-year-old girl with the captivating eyes?"
Caylee died June 16, 2008. How? Possibly only one person knows. Someone's hands stuffed her into garbage bags and hurled her into a smelly, litter-strewn swamp. Her body decayed. Rodents gnawed on her tiny bones and scattered them. No carpet of green grass lined with spring daffodils covered Caylee's cemetery.
Had Caylee lived, what might she have become? An author of children's books? Videos showed her pretending to read a picture book. Maybe a singer? She sang the familiar words, "You are my sunshine... Please don't take my sunshine away."
Her sunshine was taken away.
I was outraged about that and incensed about the trial's verdict. To get beyond my spitefulness, I resolved to release my anger in honorable ways, this writing being one.
I have served on two juries at the Maricopa County Superior Court. I know a bit of what goes on during deliberation. Some of it's good. Some is not. At one of the trials, the plaintiff was clearly at fault. Yet, in the deliberations, a juror stated, "We should find in his favor because he has large medical bills." See? Some not so good things happen behind closed deliberation doors. Fortunately, reasonable thinking prevailed. We, the jury, found the defendant not guilty.
My second juror experience, a six-week trial of an attorney accused of taking advantage of the elderly, resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors retried the case. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to prison. Same accused man plus a different jury equals a different verdict.
However, in the Florida murder trial concerning Caylee's death, there were no do-overs. The jury's decision was final. The defendant was acquitted of all three major charges against her, murder as well as manslaughter.
In my shock at the verdict, I wrestled with angry thoughts of: Why didn't the jury spend more time with the 300-plus pieces of evidence - physical, circumstantial and behavioral (the defendant's 31 days of living the "beautiful life" after Caylee's death, followed by three years of lying.) Why didn't even one juror oppose the verdict?
With time to think, I've come to acknowledge that my judgment of the jury was misdirected and wrong. I wasn't in that deliberation room. I can't second guess them. Those jurors did their best. It took courage to follow their consciences though they probably guessed the public would react vehemently. I honor them for that and for their service.
We need to move on - to use Caylee's death and her mother's acquittal in positive ways. For example, Americans can "speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Judge fairly. If selected for jury duty, use common sense when considering proven facts whether the victim is represented by defense attorneys or prosecutors. Connect the dots of circumstantial evidence. Let the jury get hung, if necessary.
Judging fairly also means letting Caylee's mother live without public scorn. Give her a chance to redeem her life. Showing respect does not equate to approval of her actions. Those who spew hatred toward her are the vile ones.
Speak up. Intervene for any child being mistreated. Pour your ignited passion into the lives of impoverished children whose situations prick your heart. Volunteer time. Give money. Perhaps teach a child to sing, "You are my sunshine."
Caylee's grandpa carried a Bible on occasion into the courtroom on occasion. Grandpa George's Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15). I think God cradled Caylee at her death as his precious, valued little one.
As stunned Americans, we can cradle her, figuratively, as we speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves and as we judge fairly. That's where justice for a 2-year-old, bright-eyed, deceased child lives.
• Peggy Morris is a Gilbert resident and former elementary school counselor at Eisenhower and Webster elementary schools in Mesa.