I had no idea who Casey Anthony was until a week ago. I didn’t watch the Casey Anthony trial on TV and I only read a few articles over the past week when it seemed to be everywhere on the news. But, it didn’t take me long to review most of the pertinent evidence and think that she was guilty, and find the jury’s verdict puzzeling.
There was so much circumstantial evidence that pointed to her guilt. Although I never practiced criminal law, but rather corporate law, I clerked for a judge while in law school who worked the criminal docket for about about nine months. During that time I witnessed a typical problem that juries usually face with circumstantial evidence and the death of a person. If no one witnessed the defendant actually kill the victim, juries are hesitant to convict. It’s easier for the defense to create a reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.
And, that is why I support any legislation to make it a crime against a parent to not report harm to or a missing child immediately. If juries can not convict parents from killing their children because no one actually saw them do it, then maybe we need some type of law to help juror’s realize the importance, severity and unnaturalness of a parent’s innaction. Because, it seems, that when parents are not immediately acting to protect or help their child in trouble – especially young children – they are usually spending time manufacturing their own cover up.
Michelle Crowder of Durant, Oklahoma has started a petition on Change.org to encourage passage of Caylee’s Law, which will make it a felony for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement of a child going missing in a timely manner. So far, more than 923,532 people have signed the petition and at least 16 states have pledged to introduce their own Caylee’s Laws. More and more people are signing it by the minute. Since I started writing this blog – 2,500 more names have been added to the petition.
What influenced my decision about Ms. Anthony’s guilt and the need for Caylee’s laws, was her strange lack of response when her child went missing. A few years ago, I had my own missing child scare when young son went missing for almost an hour. Within 30 minutes of discovering his absense, I dialed 911 and was on the phone with the police dispatcher.
On an Easter afternoon, my husband and my 4-year-old son were going to go bike riding in our Arizona suburb which is a family-friendly golf community outside of Phoenix. There are sidewalks, bike trails, playgrounds and parks interspersed throughout the community. Our house was across the street from a very large park and playground. My son was in front of our house on his bicycle ready to go and my husband ran in the house to get his sun glasses, which he forgot. When he went back outside, my son was nowhere to be seen. My husband spent about 15 minutes searching for him himself outside the house, the park and around our block, as I was unknowingly in the house.
When my husband couldn’t find my son, he came in to tell me what happened. I immediately felt a rush of adrenaline and anger at my husband, as in “How could you let this happened?!” I called for my son inside the house and searched every room, closet, bathroom, under every bed – it only took me a few minutes. Then, I went outside to help my husband search. I got in my car and drove around our neighborhood seeing if my son was riding his bike around the neighborhood. I was crying from fear, as different scenarios went through my mind. I thought about how we lived across from a park where a child abductor could easily wait for unattended children. My imagination went wild. I stopped neighbors and told them what had happened. Other people who were riding bikes were informed and they all dispersed looking for my son. I didn’t care what they thought of this crying mother searching for her son. I just wanted help in finding him.
After about 15 minutes of driving around, I remembered what I heard somewhere in the media. It was something to the effect that if your child is missing, the first 24 hours are critical. I returned to our house and dialed 911 explaining my son’s disappearance to the operator and asking for help. She said they were going to send a squad car over. My husband, in the meantime, was driving around the neighborhood searching for my son and I was communicating with him via cell-phone telling him what the dispatcher was advising me to do.
Within another 15 minutes, about 45 minutes from the time my son disappeared, three squad cars pulled up in front of our house. After I explained to the police what had happened, my husband called to tell me he had found my son. He was a few streets over at another park we liked to frequent. Since my son knew the park and had been there before, he decided to go by himself. The police waited with me as my husband brought my son home. When my son saw the police he became very shy and started crying. A policeman spoke to my son very kindly and told him how important it was not to ride off without his parents. The police were supportive, kind and reassuring that I did the right thing to call them immediately. (Tears come to my eyes as I recall my sense of loss I immediately felt when I learned my son was missing and then the support the police showed me – making me feel like a responsible parent instead of a hysterical, overreactive mom.)
After the police left and we made sure our son was all right, we quickly opened the bottle of champagne we were saving for our Easter dinner, not so much to celebrate the finding of my son – of which we were extremely relieved – but to soothe our frazzled nerves.
Having dealt with my own scare of having a young child go missing, I find it beyond suspicious that Ms. Anthony would not immediately look for her missing child and then make up stories to police about her child’s disappearance. Although I am not one for creating more laws in our over regulated society, there are times when they are called for. Most loving and conscientious parents will not be affected by these laws. They will probably call for help immediately if they sense their children are in trouble. And those parents that don’t seek help when their children are missing or in harms way, will be looked upon suspisciously and penalized. As they should.