Christopher Valen

Christopher Valen
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
August 11
I'm a mystery writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. My first police procedural, "White Tombs", featuring St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana, was released in March of 2008. "White Tombs" was selected by Reader Views as Best Mystery of 2008. "White Tombs" also won the Garcia Award for Best Fiction of 2008. My second John Santana novel, "The Black Minute", was released in September of 2009. The third Santana novel, "Bad Weeds Never Die," will be released in September 2011. You can see more on my website at I also write a blog about crime and justice entitled Probable Cause.


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JULY 6, 2011 12:38PM

Not Guilty Doesn't Mean Innocent

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 As a mystery writer who’s dealt with some interesting cases––both real and imagined–– it’s certainly no stretch to say that I, like many others, was shocked by the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial.

The prosecution presented what seemed to be a coherent theory that Casey had used chloroform, suffocated her daughter Caylee with duct tape, and dumped her body in a wooded area after hauling it around in the trunk of her car. Yet, because the body was too badly decomposed to pinpoint the cause of death, and there was no direct evidence or witnesses linking Casey to her daughter’s death, the case was circumstantial. Still, many others have been convicted on circumstantial evidence.

The defense argued that Caylee had accidentally drowned in a pool and that Casey and her father, George, concealed the death. Yet, no matter how you frame the case, it’s nearly impossible to explain how a mother can party for 31 days and get a tattoo that proclaims “bella vita” –– beautiful life –– instead of reporting her daughter missing. Then, when confronted by police, Casey Anthony concocted an elaborate lie that police easily refuted. If her daughter’s death truly was an accident, and Casey was only guilty of covering it up, it seems that would have been the time to come clean to the police. But if Caylee did drown, why would there be duct tape across her mouth? If the child were dead, there would be no need to cover her mouth.

Defense attorneys attempted to explain away Casey’s lies by claiming that her father had sexually abused her as a child and had been coached to lie her entire life. That accusation, of course, does not bode well for family relations. Casey’s parents left the courtroom after the verdict without speaking to their daughter.

So while a jury of twelve men and women in Orlando, Florida found Casey Anthony innocent of most of the charges against her, including first degree murder, she, like O.J. Simpson, will forever be seen as guilty in the eyes of the country. Like O.J., Casey Anthony may find that life on the outside is not so sweet. And like O.J. she may find herself behind bars again some day. One can only hope.

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