Sep 16 2011

Suffolk Law Named after Casey Anthony Victim a Bad Idea

It was only a matter of time before some legislator could not restrain himself from grabbing a headline by offering “Caylee’s Law” for passage. That it was Suffolk Legislator Jon Cooper – whom I had previously considered to be one of the few reliable, sane politicians in our area- makes it doubly disappointing. “Caylee’s Law” requires parents to alert authorities within 24 hours if their child is missing. Did I miss something? Are parents regularly failing to report their missing children? Has Casey Anthony’s case spawned copycat crimes in Suffolk County? There should be a general rule of thumb – no, a law- that no law can be named after a person. Every law named after a person is always a reaction to some unusual twist of facts or fate that is not likely to be repeated or helped by the law. This one is no exception. The Casey Anthony verdict was fluke – a product of a bad prosecution and a lawyer as a lucky as a leprechaun. (Incidentally, his luck continues. Anthony’s lawyer has been retained by the defense in another high-profile murder case in Aruba to “help with the forensic evidence” even though by all accounts he showed a profound lack of understanding about trial procedure and cross examination in the Anthony trial).

Jon Cooper stated in today’s Newsday that his measure, passed unanimously at the legislature’s meeting in Hauppauge, “won’t prevent a child from being killed.” No kidding. What it will do is cause many innocent parents to be victimized by police reports filed by ex-spouses. And do we not know that overzealous prosecutors, eager to grab headlines again, will use this law for other than its intended purposes – to find some way to jail someone who gets acquitted of murder. A wayward teen whose disappearance was not reported for over 24 hours for example. When does that clock start? From the time the child actually leaves the house, gets lost, or is somehow killed, or at the time the parents noticed the child was missing? How do you pinpoint the time that they “noticed”? How can a medical examiner pinpoint the time of death? What if a parent or babysitter missed the deadline because she fell asleep at the time the child was playing outside and suffered a fatal accident? You could argue this is evidence of bad parenting or inattentive babysitting, but under those circumstances, do you really want to charge a grieving parent with a crime as well?

How about the parents who will undoubtedly notify the authorities with false reports within an hour or two or twelve or ten, out of fear of becoming suspects? How many such calls leading to wasted police resources on false alarms will it take before police stop caring and then not bother investigating the reports until much later? How many legitimate abductions will then go uninvestigated during the critical first few hours because they were lost in the pile of false reports inspired by “Caylee’s Law?” Trust me I could go on and on, and I have not even had my morning coffee yet.

This law is unnecessary, unworkable, solves a non-existent problem and will cause more trouble than it’s worth.

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