Just days after a jury issued a not guilty verdict for Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her toddler, state lawmakers around the country are proposing legislation that would make failing to report a missing child in a timely manner a felony.
Proposals for so-called "Caylee's Law" -
named after Anthony's 2-year-old daughter -
are being drafted in Alabama
, New Jersey
, West Virginia
and elsewhere, according to news accounts. An online petition is circulating and seeking similar changes at the federal level
, The Christian Science Monitor
The spate of legislative and grassroots activity follows a verdict in a murder case that transfixed much of the nation and made international headlines when the jury's decision was announced on Tuesday (July 5). While Anthony was found not guilty, The Christian Science Monitor
notes that one of the most " unfathomable
" aspects of the case was that no one reported Caylee Anthony missing until more than a month after her disappearance.
State lawmakers want to ensure that doesn't happen again. "You wouldn't think that you would actually have to require a parent or guardian to report a child missing or dead," a state's attorney said of the legislation being proposed in Maryland
, "but we're in an age where there is a need here."
Others are wary of what they see as hasty legislation that comes in response to a widely unpopular verdict. Plenty of criminal statutes are already named after high-profile crime victims, and some of them -
particularly sex-offender statutes, such as "Jessica's Law," "Megan's Law" and the Adam Walsh Act -
have had unintended consequences that have led to court battles and complaints that lawmakers went too far.
"My first reaction is that too often we pass legislation that is knee-jerk, thinking we solve a problem, and we don't look at the consequences," Stewart Greenleaf, the chair of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee, tells The Philadelphia Inquirer
. "That's not good legislation."