The state Senate GOP has just introduced the "Protect Our Children Act," which would create new laws to punish parents who conceal the deaths of their children or fail to report them.
And who could be against protecting our children? The murders of Caylee Anthony and 8-year-old Brooklyn boy Leiby Kletzky have understandably shocked the nation and the state. So, there ought to be a law for that, right?
Well, allow me to play Casey's advocate, if you will.
TIME already has a great takedown of the possible effects of such a law, and I encourage you to read it. I won't do those arguments justice. Basically, unintended consequences could result.
But in another sense, the problem isn't that we don't have enough laws. It's CSI.
On that television cop drama, all David Caruso needs to do to solve a case is to whip off those orange-tinted sunglasses, run a gloved finger through a petri dish, study the DNA of intestinal larva in the vic's body. The team, including Gorgeous Blonde, Wisecracking Fat Guy and Square Jawed Dude With Personal Demons, plugs the information into a massive databank, and after a few bleeps and bloops and whistles, someone's picture pops up. It was the pool cleaner the whole time!
Prosecutors in the Casey Anthony case didn't have such "blockbuster evidence" to conclusively and scientifically tie Anthony to the murder. Caylee's body was too decomposed to tell how she had died.
But the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming. A search for the word "chloroform" on a computer. The smell of a decomposing body in Anthony's trunk. And in the court of law, circumstantial evidence (footprints in the snow leading to your mailbox will tell you that the mailman was there) is just as important for a jury to consider as whiz-bang DNA.
So the fact that Anthony didn't report the death of her daughter should be used by a jury as evidence to rightfully convict her of murder. The act itself doesn't need to be made illegal.
Jurors reportedly said that the state couldn't even prove how Caylee died, a reason for their ambivalence. There was duct tape on her mouth. Science can't tell us how she died. But I think it's safe to assume that when duct tape is involved, so is foul play. And who else but the mother who probably searched the word "chloroform," and then partied for a month when her child was missing, misleading cops every step of the way?
Other parts of the law — increasing penalties for abusing children — are less objectionable to me. But making failure to report a child's death a crime smacks of unhelpful political grandstanding.