Did They Get Away With Murder?

The acquittal of Casey Anthony for the murder of her daughter in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt is far from an anomaly.

It would be difficult to find a murder case with more overwhelming prosecution evidence than the recent one of Florida v Casey Marie Anthony. True, there was no confession and no video of the act, but the mere fact that this woman did not report her daughter missing, then told lie after lie after lie about how she allegedly disappeared, would surely have been enough to convince most jurists of reason that she was at least responsible to some degree for Caylee’s death. Then there was the chloroform in the car which had been used to dispose of the girl’s body, and the little matter of the duct tape found at the crime scene, and the powerful closing argument put forward by prosecutor Jeff Ashton which set out in no uncertain terms why Caylee had to die.

It is probably true to say that outside of her defense team only a handful of braindead white males of about her age even entertained the possibility of her being totally innocent. When the jury returned its verdicts on all counts, acquitting her of all but four misdemeanours of lying to the police, there were gasps of surprise and horror in the crowds outside the Orlando courthouse.

Although Casey Anthony’s acquittal is one of the most outrageous in American or any legal history, it is by no means unique. The obvious contender for that title is the trial that was alluded to most often by pundits and analysts during the proceedings in Orlando, that of OJ Simpson. Simpson stood trial in 1995 for a double murder; the case against him was equally compelling; he had motive and opportunity, and there was the little matter of a trail of forensic evidence. Like Casey Anthony’s, Simpson’s trial was held in the full glare of publicity, with cameras in the courtroom. There were though, three big differences. One is that 16 years ago, cameras in courtrooms were still something of a novelty, and many people, including it seemed at times the judge, deliberately played to them. Unlike Anthony, Simpson was not facing a possible death penalty. Then there was the race element, something that was deliberately introduced and magnified out of all proportion by the defense, even though it had no real relevance.

The high point of this was when Detective Mark Fuhrman was caught in what might be deemed a minor act of irrelevant perjury over his use of the dreaded N word and joking about framing suspects. Simpson’s legal team didn’t overtly accuse Fuhrman and the rest of the LAPD of conspiring to frame their client by planting evidence, but they drew a very precise picture and allowed the jury to join up the dots.

After an eight month trial, the jurors returned after only four hours deliberation – a disgracefully short time – and returned not guilty verdicts on both counts. It was suggested that this was payback for the acquittal of the Rodney King defendants, of which more anon, but if America was divided down racial lines, that would not last for long. Because Simpson hadn’t taken the stand, he couldn’t even be tried for perjury, but the civil case brought by the Goldman family ensured he would be recognised officially as a murderer, and his own arrogance and stupidity ensured that at the end of the day, some sort of justice was done.

First, the semi-literate Simpson published a ghost written book in which he boasted, albeit obliquely, of getting away with murder. When this was scuppered by public outrage, he embroiled himself in a bizarre incident at a Las Vegas casino on September 13, 2007 which led to the authorities throwing the book at him. If Simpson ever does see daylight again, he will be released a broken man.

Someone else who got away with murder at a price and then impaled himself on his own sword was Donald Hume. The following information is gleaned largely from the 1976 book TRIALS OF BRIAN DONALD HUME. Hume was born the illegitimate son of a schoolmistress in December 1919, joined the RAF in 1939 but was invalided out following a serious accident and then cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1940. At 17, he had joined the Communist Party and had been involved in street battles with Fascists, not because he was a political animal, but because he liked to fight. Exempted from war service, he made a lot of money during the second great conflict of the Twentieth Century; among his other talents he was an inventor. In June 1958, he told the SUNDAY PICTORIAL that by 1947 he was worth £20,000, owned 2 shops, 3 companies, and had a paid staff of fifty. This was probably an exaggeration, but clearly Hume had no need to turn to crime, it was though his fiery temper that was to be his undoing. He married in 1948, and the following year his wife gave birth to a daughter; he had also formed an illicit partnership with a crooked car dealer named Stanley Setty.

Setty’s torso was found in marshes near the Thames Estuary on October 21, 1949, and Hume quickly became the prime suspect. His trial opened January 18, 1950 in Number One Court at the Old Bailey, but the judge was taken ill, and it had to be restarted with a new judge; Mr Justice Lewis died two months later. In the witness box, Hume told an absolutely ludicrous story which resulted in a hung jury, then at a retrial he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of being an accessory. He was sentenced to twelve years, and served eight. After his release from Dartmoor Prison he sold his story to the Sunday Pictorial; on June 1, 1958, the front page headline read: I KILLED SETTY...AND GOT AWAY WITH MURDER.

Hume must have been either a compulsive gambler or perhaps had a secret cocaine addiction because by August his money appears to have run out, and he resorted to armed robbery before fleeing abroad. After murdering a taxi driver in Switzerland he was gaoled for life, but was returned to Britain in 1976 after being declared insane. He died in 1998, after wasting a life that could have been worth so much.

If OJ and Donald Hume were eventually brought to book, there are two kinds of people who have often been able to get away with murder. The first kind is a young or youngish and reasonably attractive female. Although Casey Anthony falls into that category, she was acquitted not because of her looks but because of a courageous but dumb jury, but in the 1920s, two women literally got away with murder after shooting their lovers, and, surprise, surprise, both their trials had all male juries.

Belva Gaertner (1884-1965) stood trial for the murder of Walter Law; she pleaded amnesia due to drink, and was acquitted against the evidence, even though she was no spring chicken and her lover was somewhat younger than her.

The acquittal of Beulah Annan for the murder of Harry Kalstedt was even more outrageous. Although only twenty-four years old, she was already on her second husband. She shot Kalstedt in the back then sat and watched him die while drinking cocktails and playing the song Hula Lou over and over again on her gramophone. In spite of her cuckolding him, her husband Al stood by her, and funded her defense. The day after her acquittal, she left him because he was “too slow” and filed for divorce claiming he had deserted her.

The stories of these two femmes fatales were immortalised in the musical Chicago; the character Roxie Hart is based on Annan; Velma Kelly is based on Gaertner.

There is sometimes such a thing as justice, because after marrying and divorcing her third husband, Beulah Annan died from tuberculosis less than four years after her acquittal.

The second type of person who is able to get away with murder, often figuratively as well as literally, should come as no surprise, which brings us back to Rodney King. Study this video and ask yourself how could anyone consider this to be reasonable force? The fact the rioting that followed in the wake of the acquittal of these four uniformed thugs on all charges was disgraceful in no way mitigates it.

The shooting dead of Mark Duggan in Tottenham earlier this month was undoubtedly the trigger for the rioting, mayhem and murder that followed. That likewise, was inexcusable, as was the race card that was played and is still being played by red groups more than black ones. Whatever the outcome of this case, which is still sub judicae, police brutality and worse is not and never has been a racial issue; probably the worst such case in recent years was the shooting dead of a naked James Ashley in his own home, and the sabotaging of the half-hearted prosecution of PC Christopher Sherwood by the trial judge.

In New York at the moment, women’s groups and others are still smarting after all charges were dropped against banker Dominic Strauss-Kahn due to his accuser Nafissatou Diallo being ruled unworthy of belief. The lady herself believes she has been abandoned because the man at whom she pointed the finger is rich. She would probably have fared no better if he had been a police officer, as recent events in the same city have demonstrated, but in comparison with her namesake, she is a lucky woman. In February 1999, an unarmed and innocent Amadou Diallo died in a hail of police bullets. His killers were indicted by a Grand Jury, but after two days of deliberations, they walked free. In America as in Britain, there are some privileges money can't buy.

[The above article was published by Digital Journal but was removed for legal reasons (as the saying goes); as I am not the slightest bit concerned at the prospect of baby killer Casey Anthony suing me for defamation, it is reproduced here in full.]

Back To Digital Journal Index