There is reason to celebrate Casey Anthony's impending freedom.
The power of the state was checked by the power of the jury.
This was not Salem, and Casey was not a witch, although at times that distinction wasn't so clear.
Casey's show trial was supposed to be a one-sided drubbing, pitting the best and brightest of Lawson Lamar's office against a strip-mall defense attorney.
The only question was: Would Casey burn at the stake or spend an eternity in prison?
And then, isolated from the show surrounding them, the jurors took an objective look at the evidence and reached their stunning conclusion.
Given José Baez's performance, it's hard to argue that they were duped by a slick defense lawyer.
No, this one was decided on the merits of a weak case.
Prosecutors had computer searches for suspicious words, a smelly trunk, bones that gave up their clues long ago, the mysterious presence of duct tape on Caylee's skull, and a mother behaving very coldly and very badly.
They fit these scattered pieces into a story line about a pent-up hot body yearning for freedom and willing to kill her own toddler to achieve it.
But there was too much story and too little evidence.
All they could prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, was that Casey was a sociopathic liar from a very dysfunctional family.
Afterward, State Attorney Lawson Lamar pardoned his office, calling this a "cold-bones case'' that was difficult to prove.
So why did he turn it into a hugely expensive death-penalty extravaganza?
Why did he throw the full resources of his agency into it while at the same time complaining his prosecutors were overwhelmed with too many murders and too little money?
You might think that under such circumstances, a state attorney would reserve the death penalty for only the most heinous of crimes, where the evidence was overwhelming and the suspect a threat to society.
Casey Anthony met neither of these criteria.
This was a political prosecution by a veteran politician.
The State Attorney's Office went after Casey by popular demand. It was legal-tainment, part reality television and part freak show.
There was something for most everybody.
The sad people became self-appointed crusaders for Caylee, filling some hole in their lives.
The bizarre people posted shrill Web posts in capital letters.
The whodunit people emailed and posted their theories and conspiracies.
And then there were the rubberneckers drawn into the drama, a group to which I admittedly belonged.
Oh, yes, I wanted the witch to dine on bread and water for a long time.
The media engaged in a frenzied competition for eyes and ears.
With great fanfare comes great pressure to win.
And so, to bolster its weak cold-bones case, the State Attorney's Office pursued the death penalty, an old trick used by prosecutors to stack a jury with members more likely to convict.
And then there was the presentation of the duct-tape evidence. Prosecutors put up a picture of Caylee and a smiling Casey beside her. Caylee's head morphed into a skull with duct tape slapped across the mouth, with Casey's happy face never blinking.
It was a blatant attempt to prejudice the jury and, incredibly, Judge Belvin Perry allowed it.
Baez rightly complained that prosecutors resorted to character assassination, trying Casey the person as much as Casey the suspect.
This was all about winning now and worrying about the appeal later.
If the trial had been a boxing match, the prosecutors would have won a unanimous decision. Baez seemed to understand that as he continually pressed for a mistrial.
But a funny thing happened during deliberations.
The jurors apparently did not pass judgment on the quality of the lawyers. They did not poll all those people so sure of Casey's guilt. They did not hear the legal analysts telling them what they were thinking.
As instructed, they did not hold Casey's refusal to testify against her.
They separated Casey the witch from Casey the suspect and concluded that there was not enough evidence to convict the latter.
That may have differed from my analysis, but I can't say I would have ruled any differently in their position.
As hard as it may be to fathom, this case was not about Casey's innocence. It was about whether the state could prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt using the rule of law. Putting that burden on the state is what separates us from China and Iran.
That is the frustration and the beauty of our criminal-justice system.