Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Caylee's Law a bad idea for a good cause

It's not hard to understand the push for Caylee's Law — no matter how misguided.

In the wake of the Casey Anthony trial-gone-viral, this proposed legislation would punish a parent for not reporting a missing child. And even those of us uncomfortable with the teeth-baring, Nancy Grace-fueled vitriol over Anthony's acquittal get this post-trial push.

A 2-year-old girl is dead, and a mother who did not report her missing for 31 days was found not guilty of her murder.

Who wouldn't want some new law to change this feeling of injustice done?

And so a knee-jerk response ripples across the country, with multiple states considering a version of Caylee's Law for parents or guardians. At least eight such bills have been filed here in Florida, where Anthony was tried by a jury that had to be imported to Orlando from Pinellas County because the case was that incendiary.

The jury heard a trial long on what-might-have-happeneds but short on solid evidence. Jurors did their job with what they had and were promptly and viciously excoriated for it.

And so it goes in post-O.J. America.

Florida versions of this bill named for the little girl who died would make it worth up to five years in prison for a parent not to report a missing child within 12 or 48 hours. Like other legislation named for victims — like Jessica's Law, aimed at sex offenders after the horror that was John Couey — it's our attempt to make sure this does not happen again.

As a practical matter, Caylee's Law won't likely accomplish that.

Prosecutors around the state with decades of experience will tell you they cannot recall a case like this one. So how likely is it that this strange and specific set of facts about how a mother acted after her daughter vanished — or how she didn't act — would repeat itself?

In truth, most missing kids are reported. And not doing so — particularly with a child this young and dependent — could already fall under the existing statute on child neglect.

There's also the possibility this law could get complicated in cases in which custody is shared between warring parents, with parental abductions or when a teenager is a chronic runaway.

This week, a special Senate panel created after the verdict and called the Select Committee on Protecting Florida's Children met to start figuring out if existing laws are adequate or new penalties are needed. Right off the bat, legislators were talking about acting on need, not on emotion. That's a good sign.

Still, don't be surprised to see a version of Caylee's Law come next session, if politicians are too busy worrying about persistent public anger over the verdict, if they're more concerned with making sure their names are on high-profile legislation.

If we want a legacy for Caylee and for children in peril, maybe the state could ease up on teachers, who are often the link to help. Maybe we could fund and protect the school programs, abuse investigators and child advocates who are hope for those kids.

None of which will help how people feel about a little girl who died, and ultimately no one held responsible.

But an empty law, even one sweetly named, can't change that.

Caylee's Law a bad idea for a good cause 09/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 6:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  2. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  3. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein
  4. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

    Gilmore
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]