It's likely you've heard by now of the not-guilty verdict reached last week in the murder trial that captivated the nation for the last two months. The trial of Casey Anthony in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
That verdict prompted outrage like never seen before as folks gathered in protests all around the country and online to voice their anger and frustration. It also prompted one Oklahoma mom of two to petition for a law that might prevent tragedies like Caylee Anthony's from happening again — or at the very least give prosecutors more leverage when dealing with these troubling situations.
The biggest sticking point in Caylee's case is that her mother never notified the authorities that she was missing. Never. When Casey's mother finally reported her granddaughter missing a month later, Casey told numerous lies about imaginary nannies and family cover-ups to explain her daughter's disappearance and her lack of concern in finding her.
I can't quite comprehend that. But then again, to be honest, I can't quite comprehend losing one of my children. Michelle Crowder, a mom of two from Oklahoma, would like to see Congress introduce Caylee's Law, a bill that would make it a felony for parents or guardians not to notify the authorities in the event that their child dies or goes missing. As it is written now, Caylee's Law would charge parents with a felony if they fail to report a missing child within 24 hours, or if they fail to report the death of a child within an hour. She created a petition for Caylee's Law on Change.org which as of this writing has more than 1 million signatures.
Caylee's Law can't change the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial. In all likelihood, it couldn't save another child from harm. But proponents argue that it could give law enforcement officers and prosecutors more to work with in these rare yet disturbing situations. If Caylee's Law were already on the books, Casey Anthony could have been sentenced to another 15 years in prison for failing to report her daughter missing.
Still, there are some troubling aspects to such a law. For starters, despite what you've seen on "CSI," it is actually quite difficult for forensics experts to pinpoint the time of death to a precise hour. This in and of itself would make it downright impossible to enforce such a law. Beyond that, I can think of a number of legitimate reasons — shock, mental illness, injury — that might prevent a parent from calling in a child's death within the one-hour time limit.
So while I greatly appreciate the motivation behind Caylee's Law and can see the gap that it is trying to fill, I think that it has a ways to go before it hits the books. And maybe it will get there. If the lawyers can consult with law enforcement to determine just how accurately a time of death could be determined, and with mental health experts to determine the extenuating circumstances that might legitimately prevent a parent or guardian from making a report, then they might be able to put together a law that would penalize a parent who is not looking out for the best interests of the child.
Currently Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia are considering state versions of Caylee's Law.
Do you think Caylee's Law is a good idea?
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