Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony, the Judicial System, and Me

While I am completely disgusted by the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, I am not surprised. The fact that this young woman lied repeatedly, made up lies to support her lies, and then lied about many of the said lies speaks to her character.

I have no doubt that she was responsible for the death of her young daughter, and I know that she will one day have to answer to a higher power.

It's just that the American judicial system wasn't it.

Some are outraged by the not-guilty verdict, speaking out vehemently against jurors and posting Facebook chains in remembrance of little Caylee. It's kind of a knee-jerk thing, and I can completely relate to that--my most recent status update is, "Karma's a birch ... hopefully Casey Anthony (and others who don't follow the golden rule) will get that memo. Soon!" (the autocorrect on my Droid is kind of a pain sometimes).

Others are looking at it more objectively, suggesting that the prosecution should have gone for a lesser charge or citing the so-called "CSI Effect" (namely, that jurors expect indisputable physical evidence in order to convict, since that's how it happens on television).

Me, I'm just resigned to the weaknesses in a system that allows this sort of thing to happen.

My distrust in the legal world probably comes in part from the fact that my father is a lawyer and I spent much of my childhood hearing courtroom stories, and I'm sure the fictional trial in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird plays a role as well, but the real reason is more personal.

It's ironic that the verdict of the Casey Anthony trial has coincided with my ex-husband's most recent trip down Alcohol Alley, but perhaps that's not a bad thing.

I have a lot of really good friends and a wonderful family. I know that I am loved, and I feel incredibly blessed for all that I have. The support I've received from legions of people during the whole divorce debacle has kept my belief in the basic goodness of human beings from faltering.

I am very aware of the degree of detail I go into in terms of my personal life on this blog. On Facebook, however, I don't hold much back.

Anyone who is my friend on Facebook has been a party to the roller coaster ride that has accompanied my unwilling journey aboard Pythagorus' alcoholic antics, most recently a night during the last week in June.

Facebook statuses from that night include, "Driving my ex-husband to his house (two hours) from the hospital. The wine fumes are killing me (sorry, there has to be SOME levity ...)", "I could not make up my f***ing life ...", and "I am home. Should anyone need me, I'll be up all night writing an exam."

For years now, I've been advised to "move on", to leave him alone, to not help him when he asks for it, to ignore him and forget him and otherwise extend a metaphorical middle finger rather than an olive branch.

But I can't.

It has nothing to do with Pythagorus.

Anyone who knows me in real life is aware that I would do anything in my power to help another person, that you couldn't ask me to do something that I wouldn't do, that I would willingly sacrifice my happiness, my safety, my health, and my sanity if it would behoove another person, even a complete stranger. (And I don't say this because I think I'm great, by the way ... honestly, this is probably my fatal flaw)

The truth is this. If I'd just ingested two gallons of water and Pythagorus was on fire in front of me, I'd cross the road and pee across the street. With a smile on my face.

There is not another person on earth I could say that about. A lot of people have hurt me, some of them very badly, but I would help them nonetheless. See, I don't matter all that much to me.

But my children? They are my life, the sunshine of my universe, and Pythagorus has hurt both of them repeatedly and continuously for years now.

And unless he drops dead, I am powerless to keep him from hurting Belle each and every day. (Where he's not Addie's biological father, she doesn't have to deal with him directly anymore--you could say the damage has been done--except she is incredibly close to her little sister and she feels Belle's pain)

Which brings me back to the American judicial system.

As Belle's father, Pythagorus has the legal right to see her.

It doesn't matter if he blows off his nightly phone call for a week and she becomes physically ill with worry.

It doesn't matter if he is arrested for DWI multiple times within a one month period.

It doesn't matter if he is completely tanked when he calls or visits with her.

It doesn't matter if he loses any job he manages to get.

It doesn't matter that he has to hold some kind of record for the number of times one person has entered a hospital emergency room with a blood alcohol level over .40 (and, no, that's not a typo).

As her father, he has the legal right to see her. Period.

And because Belle is my heart and soul, I do everything I can to make the whole situation easier for her.

I'm civil, even pleasant, to Pythagorus on the phone (I talk to him first to find out whether or not he's drunk, since there's a lot of processing that I have to do with Belle when he's not in his right mind).

I supervise their visits because Belle does not trust many people, and Pythagorus has to "approve" of who'll be doing the supervising (trust me, I'd love to let my mother or my sister do the supervising ... it's not like I enjoy it).

I lied and gave him a job reference under my maiden name so he could obtain employment.

I speak positively about Pythagorus to Belle. He was, for example, an incredible father when she was a baby. She was an early riser (4:30 a.m. was pretty standard), and he would let me sleep in on weekend mornings, taking her to Wal-Mart to look at the fish and to parks and stuff.

She hears plenty of good things about him, and it comes from me. Furthermore, I make sure that Addie understands that she is never to bash Pythagorus to Belle; it's unfair and pointless, and besides, Belle's not stupid--she sees what he is.

The fact that Belle has any regard whatsoever for her father is because I have gone way above and beyond what any sane person would expect to maintain it. Even while Pythagorus sabotages Belle's love for him over and over again, I have for years done everything in my power to keep it alive.

Because of the judicial system.

On June 21st, Pythagorus called me on the home phone and asked me to come pick him up at the hospital that's ten minutes away from my house. He was drunk as a skunk and I had to write a final exam to give the next morning, but I drove him home. When we got to his father's house, I reinjured my back trying to get him out of the car, and his father finally had to call his cousin to get him out.

When Belle and I called him a few nights later, he was completely trashed on the phone and made plans to go to Chuck E. Cheese the next day. Belle was very excited, of course, and of course we didn't end up going to Chuck E. Cheese the next day. I was, of course, the one who had to process that whole disappointment with Belle.

He called me a few nights after that, once again gracing the emergency room of a nearby hospital with a staggeringly high blood alcohol level, and once again wanting me to pick him up and drive him home. I told him that I didn't have anyone to watch Belle and that I couldn't let her see him like that. He, of course, did not take that news kindly and screamed some pretty awful things at me. Yes, because I didn't want his daughter to see him so intoxicated that it took three people to drag him out of a car.

My mother freaked out on me for trying to help him after this latest episode. My doctor, who I had to see once again for my re-hurt back, told me I had to stop enabling him. My friends and family think I should just tell him to go to hell and have said as much.

I did have an epiphany of sorts after Belle's last visit with him (it lasted less than an hour, and he spent much of the time in the bathroom, no doubt vomiting up the vestiges of cheap wine), though. When I asked him why his father had driven him to Chuck E. Cheese, he finally admitted that he'd obtained another DWI.

Later that afternoon, I decided to Google his name and DWI, just to see if his DWI had been the 21st of June or the next week (the time I refused to pick him up because of having Belle with me). Imagine my surprise to learn that his DWI was the first week in June. The first week!

I knew for a fact that he'd driven after that date (Belle and I met him for a short lunch on Fathers Day, and he drove himself), and putting that knowledge with the two subsequent drunken ER phone calls makes my blood run cold. He could easily have killed someone (and it probably wouldn't have been himself--drunks seem to possess a warped kind of luck) driving in that condition, and I can only imagine what Belle would go through if she had to live her life knowing that her pathetic drunken loser of a father had killed a minivan full of children or whatever.

That was when I decided that I'm done.

But, you see, I really can't be done. Because of--you guessed it--the judicial system in America.

Try this on for size. Pythagorus goes to jail. Finds God. Goes to an inpatient rehab center for several months. Obtains employment. Wants to up the ante in terms of his visitation with Belle.

I am not convinced that the legal system wouldn't say, "Sure, he's gone through treatment, he's her father and he has the right to see her, let's give it a try." Despite the fact that he's gone through extensive inpatient treatment (including a memorable four month long stint) as well as outpatient, partial inpatient, AA, and so on before and it clearly didn't work, the judicial system doesn't deal in potential worst case scenarios.

Which leads me back to Casey Anthony.

Could she have killed her daughter? Of course. I don't think that anyone in the world would argue that the possibility (heck, even the probability) is there.

But because there wasn't a sense of reasonable surety on the part of her jury, Casey Anthony will soon be a free woman.

Could my ex-husband conceivably be legally permitted to have Belle in a car that he's driving someday? Well, sure ... because we can't infringe on his rights based on a 'could be', namely that his extensive history of drinking and driving and otherwise emotionally torturing his child doesn't prove with reasonable surety that he would do so again.

Americans are afforded a great many freedoms, not the least of which is the presumption of innocence. While this isn't inherently a bad thing, I believe that it's why Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her daughter ...

And it reminds me of the gut-wrenching fears I have regarding my own daughter's safety.