More than 1.1 million people have signed a pledge petitioning state governments to enact “Caylee’s Law.” Twenty-eight states have started to consider enacting the law that would make it a felony for parents to not report within 24 hours that a child is missing.
Now, one more person is getting behind the push to enact the legislation: George Anthony, the grandfather of Caylee Marie Anthony and father of Casey Anthony.
The petition started in the emotional aftermath of Casey Anthony’s murder trial. Casey Anthony never reported her daughter as missing. Thirty-one days after she disappeared, Casey Anthony’s mother, Cindy Anthony, called the police. Five months later, the remains of Caylee were discovered.
A jury found Casey Anthony guilty of four counts of lying to the police; she was acquitted of murder charges. Oklahoman Michelle Crowder felt the verdict did not do justice to Caylee Anthony.
“I could not believe she was not being charged with child neglect or endangerment, or even obstruction of justice,” Crowder told BlogPost’s Elizabeth Flock.
She took to Change.org, a Web platform for social activism, and started the petition.
It has become the fastest-growing petition Change.org has seen, pulling in more than 1.1 million signatures in a week. It has also encouraged elected officials from Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont and 25 other states to consider a version of the legislation.
George Anthony said in an e-mail that he was investigating the law and hoped to help get it passed in Florida. “Caylee’s Law will be groundbreaking, and will be up there assisting the Adam Walsh Act, the Lungsford Act, Amber Alert, and many others that are necessary for our children,” he wrote.
During his daughter’s trial, Anthony was seen as controversial figure, with the defense contending that Casey was hiding emotional distress caused by alleged sexual abuse from her father. Her father has denied that claim.
When asked in a phone interview if the allegations could affect the law’s passage, Anthony said that the law had nothing to do with him and everything to do with keeping “the memory of my granddaughter going.” He also said that his life could not get much worse, with people camped outside his home and death threats coming in.
“I couldn’t be hurt more than I already am,” he said. “Caylee is gone and the chances of seeing Casey again. . .who knows. I just want to get through today.”
There has been some push-back to the measure. On the social-media site Reddit, users warned against supporting the legislation, and Radley Balko wrote in the Huffington Post that the law was a bad idea and questioned whether any research was done before the petition began. Both think it would be hard to determine when exactly to start the clock on the 24 hour deadline and that grief-stricken parents, not in the right mind to contact the authorities, could be accused of a crime they did not think to commit.
Crowder said in a phone interview that she had not spoken to any law enforcement officials before coming up with the proposal — she relied on a quick Google search and the belief that lawmakers would look into the details.
Oklahoma state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R) said he had received so many calls and e-mails about the law that he felt compelled to look into it. He said since his state legislature won’t meet until February, he’s got some time to look into how best to enact the measure.
Wesselhoft said that while some may criticize lawmakers for pushing legislation based on an emotional response from constituents, “they are clamoring for a resolution and there is nothing wrong with that — that’s democracy,” he said.
However, laws passed under a child’s name have a mixed history. The Amber Alert, created after the murder of Amber Hagerman and enacted in several countries around the world, has seen success in helping track down missing children, though some outside studies say the the successes come from child custody fights, not from the violent crimes it was enacted to prevent.
Kyleigh’s Law, enacted in New Jersey in 2009 after Kyleigh D’Alessio was killed, possibly as a result of a friend's distracted driving, marks every teenage driver’s car with a red decal. New Jersey is considering repealing the law.
George Anthony said he disagrees with the criticism of the law. He said when he first heard about the petition, he cried.
“This is a great legacy for my granddaughter. Other children still need assistance,” Anthony said. “If it reflects on my daughter, well, so be it.”
He plans to meet with representatives in Florida and hopes to get the law passed next year.
“If I have to stand on top of the capitol building, I will.”