(Photo: Reuters / Hans Deryk)
Following what much of the public considered a shocking not guilty verdict in the murder of Caylee Anthony, hundreds of thousands of Americans and at least one lawmaker are now pushing for "Caylee's Law."
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Okla.) said on Wednesday that he will introduce Caylee's Law, which would require parents to notify authorities of a missing or dead child in a timely manner.
While calling the actions of Casey Anthony, mother of 2-year-old Caylee, "reprehensible," Wesselhoft stated, "It is unconscionable for a parent to delay notifying the authorities of the death of their child. Most parents would immediately notify authorities if their child had gone missing," according to Reuters.
"Any delay could endanger the life of the child and, in the case of a child's death, make it that much harder to collect evidence."
Casey Anthony, 25, was acquitted of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and manslaughter on Tuesday. The Florida mother was found guilty only on the charges of lying to law enforcement.
Caylee was last seen on June 15, 2008, but she was reported missing a month later by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony. Casey had told police that her daughter was taken by a woman she claimed was the toddler's nanny. Detectives, however, never found alleged kidnapper Zenaida Gonzalez, or Zanny the nanny.
Friends of Casey testified during the more than month-long trial that the young mother never showed signs of distress between June and July 2008. She seemed normal, they testified while revealing that Casey had told them Caylee was with "the nanny" each time they hung out.
The toddler’s remains were found in the woods near the Anthony family home in December 2008, nearly six months after her disappearance. By that time, only dry bones were left, making the case difficult to solve for prosecutors who accused Casey of suffocating her daughter with chloroform and duct tape, and dumping her in the nearby woods.
The defense, meanwhile, submitted that Caylee accidentally drowned in her grandparents’ pool and that her grandfather, George, helped dispose the body after he and Casey found her in the pool.
One juror from the trial, Jennifer Ford, said Wednesday that there was not enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Casey murdered her daughter, though the jury found themselves sick to their stomach to reach the verdict they did.
Wesselhoft commented, "Although jurors may have followed the letter of the law, most people I come across believe Caylee Anthony's mother escaped true justice."
More than 266,000 people have signed a petition on change.org to create Caylee's Law. Started by Michelle Crowder of Durant, Okla., the petition states: "I'm writing to propose that a new law be put into effect making it a felony for a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker to not notify law enforcement of the death of their child, accidental or otherwise, within 1 hour of said death being discovered. This way there will be no more cases like Casey Anthony's in the courts, and no more innocent children will have to go without justice."
Under Crowder's proposal, it would be a felony for the caretaker to not notify authorities of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.
"The case of Caylee Anthony was tragic, and there is no reason for another case like this one to hit the courts. Let's do what is necessary to prevent another case like this from happening," the petition reads.
Under Wesselhoft's planned legislation, parents would have 24 hours to notify authorities of the death of a child and 48 hours to report a missing child under the age of 12.
"Violation of this law would be a maximum misdemeanor or a felony conviction," he said.
Wesselhoft plans to introduce Caylee's Law during the 2012 legislative session.