By David Godow
Delawareans furious over the acquittal of Florida mom Casey Anthony for the murder of her two-year old daughter, Caylee, have pushed state legislators to pass a law that would more seriously punish “negligent” parents. Anthony, who walked free after being convicted for lying to the police about her daughter’s death, waited 31 days to report her daughter’s disappearance, leading to calls for severe penalties for parents who fail to speak up when their children can’t be found.
Both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have asked Attorney General Beau Biden to assist them in drawing up such a bill, a so-called “Caylee’s Law,” that would make it a felony for a parent to not report a child’s disappearance within 24 hours. House Speaker Robert Gilligan, majority leader Peter Schwartzkopf, and minority leader Gregory Lavelle, among other leaders, signed a letter to Biden suggesting that “while the proposal does not seem unreasonable, it raises many questions… One of these issues deals with the notion of the 24-hour mandate.” As the letter goes on to note, some civil liberties advocates have argued that such a requirement could be abused by prosecutors and that it would have little useful application.
Whether “Caylee’s Laws” would improve the safety of children or simply the aching consciences of Delawareans, it seems likely that such a bill will at least be proposed during Delaware’s 2012 legislative session. Until then, Attorney General Biden has promised to research whether the current penalty for failing to report a missing child has any “loopholes” for guilty parents to worm through.