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Casey Anthony Not Guilty of Murdering Caylee: July 4th Civics Lesson on Jury Instructions & Legal Standards

After a televised trial that gripped the American populus, a jury on Tuesday found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee, whose remains were found in woods near their Florida home. The verdict, which spared the 25-year-old from a possible death penalty, surprised most legal analysts and commentators.

Although disappointed with the verdict, viewers still received a constructive civics lesson on the judicial system in United States. No matter the verdict, at least some Americans were educated on the way the system works, and it’s pitfalls.
It is unclear whether Casey Anthony will be covered under her parents homeowner’s insurance policy or not. These policies cover insured persons for negligence and accidental injuries or deaths that the insured homeowner or the residents may have cause, but the policies usually exclude intentional acts of the policy owners. First degree murder would likely not be covered under such a policy, and this complicates any wrongful death action being contemplated to recover for the death of Casey Anthony’s daughter. However, considering all the family drama at the trial, the likelihood of a civil wrongful death action seems dim.

Anthony family members had concerns over who would testify first in court. The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crimes for which she has been charged and, therefore, spoke first. The defense always has the opporunity to respond, but the final chance for rebuttal is granted to the prosecution.
In personal injury trials in Virginia, and in virtually every other state, however, the personal injury lawyer representing the victim speaks first because he has the burden of proof. In a civil injury case, the burden of proof is the greater weight of evidence — a much lower standard than for criminal trials.
After the verdict, an unsatisfied American populous is now questioning whether another person or party has the right to bring a wrongful death civil action against Casey Anthony. Even though the victim, Calylee Anthony, was a minor, she was considered to have an intangible estate under the law in Florida This means that another party actually does have the right to bring a new wrongful death to action. The more important legal question, though, is whether there will be assets or an insurance policy that could pay if a party brought a wrongful death action on the toddler’s behalf. And, who would bring the suit?

Normally, a parent would control a wrongful death action for a child against a responsible party. However, many states have passed laws that prohibit any person involved in a criminal act against a child from recovering as the estate’s representative in a wrongful death action. Such a statute would clearly apply to this circumstances if the jury finds Casey Anthony guilty of any criminal charge. But, based on the acquittal of the criminal charges involving criminal homicide, Casey Anthony likely has the right to actually bring a civil suit to action. but against whom?

A wrongful death action can still be brought in favor of her deceased daughter under the wrongful death statute of Florida. Each state provides different wrongful death act details, but, usually, funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses incurred before death, lost wages or income, loss of consortium, grief, solace and some other forms of losses are recoverable. These type policies cover insured persons for negligent and accidental injuries or deaths that the insured homeowner or the covered residents may cause, but usually exclude intentional acts of the homeowners. Murder with intent would likely not be covered under such a policy.

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