Brandi Chambless – The Atonement

I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you. – Karla Faye Tucker

On February 3, 1998 Karla Faye Tucker was the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863. Tucker, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Death Row #777, became known as America’s Death Row Sweetheart partially due to her widely publicized conversion to Christianity while in prison in 1985.

Despite public outcry that her death row conviction should be commuted to life imprisonment, including appeals from Pope John Paul II, then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, and televangelist Pat Robertson, the conviction was upheld for the reformed 38-year-old woman.

After a last meal of a peach, a banana, and a garden salad with ranch dressing, Tucker was put to death by lethal injection. Watching was Ron Carlson, brother of Tucker’s female victim, who himself came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of Karla Faye Tucker’s personal beliefs and peaceful heart in spite of living on death row. Having believed that the now gentle young woman had atoned for the heinous murder of his sister during her 14-year stay in prison, he opposed the execution, but to no avail.

For 1,007 days Casey Anthony sat in a Florida jail cell awaiting a similar fate if convicted of the charges against her in the suspicious disappearance and mysterious death of 2-year old daughter Caylee Marie Anthony. Instead, she was acquitted of the most grievous of the charges and released at 12:14 A.M. on July 17 for time already served respective to the four less egregious counts.

The Anthony case and the Tucker case have two things in common: (1.) The victims’ bodies/remains had been discovered and were available to authorities at the time of the trial and (2.) The arousal of public outrage before, during, and after the trial. But, unlike the Tucker case, the Anthony trial produced no proven motive, no confession, no consistent explanation, no remorse, no repentance AND only a handful of supporters.

To make matters worse, once the July 5 verdict was announced, pop culture talking heads continued to make sport of the Anthony trial, perpetuating it with Where in the world is Casey Anthony? call-in sessions while the stunned public was left with the realization that only one person truly knows who killed Caylee and it’s not Rupert Murdoch. Lead attorney Jose Baez has now changed hats from def
ense attorney to agent, managing the bidding wars that are transpiring for THE million dollar interview, book deals and movie rights following the trial.

In addition, with third parties now dipping their toes in the water, it is likely only a matter of time until someone jumps in by making claims that Anthony is on a private island with Elvis and Michael Jackson, holding up a sign that says “Most Beautiful Girl in the World – Now Available”, and for a small fee they can take you there; though, in a rare move, even the reprobate adult film industry and multiple others have reportedly decided to steer clear of the big social Fail Whale.

In this modern murder trial, the pop culture TV talking heads weren’t the only ones doing the talking and weighing in on her obvious guilt. For We the Social Mediaddicts, the socialnomics tell the Casey Anthony story by popular opinion devoid of the law in such a manner that the State of California and OJ Simpson could have never dreamed, as we could only imagine Amanda Knox translating the transcripts into Italian so her lawyers could watch, listen, and learn.

In fact, the social media trial is still going. Boycott Casey Anthony fan page administrators are being heavily pursued by the media to keep the on-air conversation going. The hashtag #notguilty became synonymous with Casey Anthony after the verdict with a whoppin’ Twitter fail by baked goods giant Entenmann’s. Their professional PR firm inadvertently (sure) and untweetingly witted out on Twitter “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” then corrected the so-called snafu by the following retraction, “Sorry everyone, we weren’t trying to reference the trial in our tweet! We should have checked the trending hashtag first.”

With a story that sounded more suspicious than not reporting your child missing for 31 days, increased exposure for Entenmann’s contributed to big buzz as the retweets and comments by the satirists began to fly: “Next time you want to murder your child, rip into a box of Entenmann’s #childkillingiswrong.” “What’s good drowned? Our Devil’s Food Mini Donuts, drowned in milk! Disposing of evidence was never this tasty! #donthideyourdeadchildsbodyinyourtrunk.”

Whether or not the Entenmann’s PR firm is super sly or stupor slupid, popular opinion seems to agree that there is still Failure with a capital “F” written all over the Casey Anthony trial with varying opinions about who exactly failed …a young girl at being a mother? The jury? The prosecution? The legal system? The media? George and Cindy Anthony? A Nanny named Zanny?

Regardless, it’s not likely that Casey will replace Marc Anthony’s former girl either on Idol or as The Most Beautiful Girl in The World, have a look-alike in Vegas, or a wax figure with her name on it in some museum for any reason whatsoever. But, since J. Lo is now out of the picture, if Casey A applies for a starring role in Marc A’s reality show she wouldn’t even have to change her last name…oh wait…that won’t work. Maybe she can get a job babysitting the jurors’ children.

Nevertheless, that an alleged murderer’s life is given the same value as their victim, testifies to the certainty that our society and courts still impart a high value to human life. The same legal system spawned from the laws discovered by our founding fathers and the very ones we fight to defend today date back to 1776 when Thomas Paine pointed out that in free countries the law is king. In order to prove guilt, each element of a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and if a jury is not so convinced, it is instructed to find the defendant not guilty. With the determination of the not guilty verdict for Casey Anthony, on July 5 she was a defendant no more, rather a liberated person soon to be released from the physical bonds and restraints of a Florida jail.

In most cases, someone in this situation is free to return to society.   But this was not the case for Anthony since the law defines no such instructions or constitutional guidelines for the general public’s determination of guilt or innocence and no such day in court after which prosecution will cease for the accused.

Regardless of any attempts to restore her life, chances are Anthony WILL serve a life sentence of personal bondage incarcerated within her own humanity and someone, somewhere is concealing what really happened. Though fellow Shocking Verdict club member OJ Simpson seemed to beat the odds at first and was able to capitalize upon his falsely acquitted public image by making millions after his trial, the reality for Casey Anthony is that her fake position at Universal Studios is comparable to neither winning the Heisman nor ever having been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Casey Anthony as we have come to know her, though acquitted in the courtroom, will never really be free as we think of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness whether she committed the crime of murder of not. She is as incarcerated as OJ and as dead as Karla Faye Tucker even if she happens to successfully sell her story. And though, if by chance, in some obscure place she were once again to find a life tucked away somewhere, the thorn of her existence will always be the weight of five life-shattering words standing between her and any honest human intimacy, words of freedom from the confines of her mind’s darkest shadows … “I once was Casey Anthony,” while her daughter Caylee’s blood cries out from the ground, “I know the truth.”

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Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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