July 7, 2011

Unnatural Act, Unspeakable Crime

To kill your own child: it's literally a crime against nature. Granted, some biologists might argue that it's perfectly in line with nature, as there are several species that kill and even eat their own offspring. But this is one of those times that for all of our animal instincts, I'd like to think that humans have risen above this in our evolutionary progress.

I had not planned on writing about Casey Anthony, I really hadn't. I remember the hearing about this horrific crime and horrible tragedy of Caylee's death a few years ago; back then, I still had network and cable TV. A pretty young (and white) mom and her adorable toddler, their faces splashed all over the news. It was a disturbing story.

I hadn't really given it any thought since then until I started noticing it trending in on my Twitter home feed, among many of you, in the last few weeks. Since we only have internet TV at home, I didn't have a steady stream of news coverage waiting for me. Since I get most of my news on my commute to and from work, I didn't really get much more as NPR didn't have much to say about the trial. So I gleaned little bits and pieces from Twitter. I didn't even bother to read about it further online.

After the verdict was read on Tuesday, Twitter basically exploded. And even with my very limited knowledge of the case and trial proceedings, I was saddened and disturbed.

And that's where my commentary on the whole mess ends. It's a sad and disturbing story - that's it. I don't fault the jurors - they were fulfilling their civic duty. If anything, the fault lies with the prosecution; they failed to meet the burden of proof. It mirrors in many ways the very disturbing "Rape Cops" court case that wrapped up last month in New York.

Was justice served in either case? Perhaps not. But the judicial process was honored. (Danielle at Kitten a Go-Go has some rather excellent commentary on this thought, in her post The Casey Anthony Verdict: One Lawyer's Perspective.)

And... that's it. End of story.

Or is it?

Jjiraffe at Too Many Fish to Fry has an excellent post on her thoughts about the Casey Anthony trial. I particularly appreciated her viewpoint as she, like me, hadn't really followed the trial at all. On the other hand, Katie of from IF to when was my complete opposite. She was obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial, she admits. When the verdict was read, she was stunned.

Both are ALI community bloggers and we all shared the same thought, no matter how much or how little we were invested in this case:

It's not fair. It's just not fucking fair. She (said with judgment, disdain, and disgust) got to have a child but we don't??

For me, as I noted in my comment on Jjiraffe's post, it's not so much the unfairness as it is trying to process a very disturbing truth: how can a mother kill her own child?

This is not an isolated narrative, either. In fact, it just played out here in the New England region just two months ago. A mother from Texas drove to Maine and killed her 6-year-old son. Six. Years. Old. I just can't wrap my brain around it. But there have been many Casey Anthonys. We just used to call them Susan Smiths before this latest trial.

Or La Llorona.

Or Medea.

It's unnatural - a literal crime against nature. It's sick. It's an archetypal narrative that rocks us to the core that makes for salacious storytelling when it's in fictional form and horrifies us when we see it actually play out in real life.

That's why the Casey Anthony trial has sparked the outrage that it has: because this unnatural crime deserves justice - this forsaken mother must pay for her crimes.

Except this time, the American judicial system got in the way.

. . .

I thought my commentary was over, but it's not. I have one more thing to add. As Twitter blew up, so did my Facebook feed. I need to give my friend Jessa some recognition too, because her Facebook status was one of the most well-said:

While I'm thankful the onus of official judgment didn't rest on my shoulders, I have to say I'm disappointed by the verdict. Any mother who doesn't report her child missing for 31 days and the child is subsequently found dead should at the very least be found guilty of manslaughter.

No matter how the evidence was shown at this trial, this is the one fact about the whole Casey Anthony case that disturbs me as equally as the idea of a mother killing her own child. It's the one fact that's been nagging at me.

Verdict aside, not reporting your two year-old child missing for a month is tantamount to child abuse.

I think what many of us have forgotten in our outrage over Casey Anthony's trial is the fact that a child is dead.

Nearly five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect. In 2009, an estimated 1,770 children died from abuse in the United States (source). We can let Caylee become another statistic or we can educate ourselves and channel our outrage into advocacy.  

Take a minute to check out Childhelp, a national non-profit focused on providing support and resources for victims of child abuse and neglect. Find out what you can do to help.

How are you processing all of this after the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial?


Adriana Iris said...

I have just been speechless I honestly don't know what to say

Serendipitie said...

I am constantly appalled by the turns of the universe. Why abusive and uncaring people can procreate, and others who want nothing more than to care for their child cannot is beyond me. I don't fault the jurors, but I don't understand either. At some point, I will come to peace with the unfairness of life, but I'm not there yet. I'm still angry and bitter.

Sonia Rumzi said...

Why do we not believe in our justice system? Why is everyone so sure that she is the one who killed her child? Who can we trust if not our justice? I am horrified that we cannot let her go because we need someone to accuse.

Melissa N. said...

This verdict stunned, sickened and appalled me. I had many of the same thoughts, two of which I couldn't shake: 1) This monster got away with murdering her child and yet, WE can't have children, we who would give our right arm to be blessed with a child?! and 2) what happened to Caylee? I believe her mother is guilty of her murder {and at the very least, gross negligence and child abuse} but IF she didn't kill her, who did? What happened to this little girl? Just horrific, no matter how you look at it. I pray that Caylee is at peace and in a better place.

justine said...

Thanks for this, Keiko.

The "why don't you report your child missing" is that piece that disturbs me most, too. Because other than that, who are we to judge? We who did not sit through the evidence presented in that courtroom? We who only know what we know from Twitter feeds or cable TV (which of course ALWAYS tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth)?

I don't think she should get off (it's criminal neglect if nothing else), but I also worry about us standing in for the judicial system.

Michelle D said...

I worked for CPS (child protective services) for 4 1/2 years. It is unspeakable and horrible what parents are capable of with innocent lives. Thank you for pointing out that it isn't just the media-crazed cases that need attention and help :)

Chickenpig said...

What makes me bitter is the fact, which you eloquently stated, is that this is by no means the first time a parent has gotten away with infanticide, and it won't be the last, this case has just gotten a lot of press. There is one incident that I know of where a woman had six children, six, and they all died of crib death, even the ones that made it to toddler hood.(I don't think a kid who isn't in a crib anymore can die of crib death). Experts are now quite certain she strangled them all. There is a cemetery here where a woman had 9 children, all died of natural causes in early childhood. Normal bad luck and bad health? or murder? At least in Anthony's case the whole world knows, and it was brought to trial. There are far more cases than we count that never do.

I don't think there was enough evidence to convict her of murder, and unfortunately the prosecutor didn't try her for manslaughter. The prosecutor is to blame in this case. At least we know she will never do this again, her crime has been spotlit for all the world to see.

Mrs.Slick said...

I completely agree with everything you said. I can understand how she was found not guilty of murder. But I cannot wrap my mind around how she was not found guilty of manslaughter or the very least abuse/neglect. This is just one of those circumstances where not guilty doesn't necessarily equate to innocent.

I remember once when I was younger and my 2-3year old sister hid in the clothing racks while shopping with our mother. She was out of my mother's sight for maybe 31 SECONDS and my mom freaked out. How can a mother function after 31 days?

Jennifer said...


A few thoughts:

1.) You can't abuse a child who is already dead.
2.) You can't "manslaughter" a child who is already dead.

Therefore, it makes zero sense to charge a woman who fails to report her dead child missing with either child abuse or manslaughter.

I haven't followed the trail closely; maybe that's why I'm not as appalled as others. The prosecutors failed to prove she killed the child, so she was appropriately found innocent. Better 10 guilty persons found innocent in my opinion, than an innocent rot in jail.

Sarah B said...

I am a little tired of the IF community turning this issue back to their own suffering ("why her, not us," "it isn't fair," etc) when the real issue is, as you said, that a child has died. I agree that the prosecutor should have gone for manslaughter, but am totally disturbed by the 31 day reporting lag and THE DUCT TAPE ON HER MOUTH. Something is afoul.

I also can't help but bemoan why the media fixates on which stories. Never is there a missing child case so nationally publicized on anything other than a pretty little white girl (with maybe the exception of Kyron, the OR boy last year). Why IS that? This doesn't diminish Caylee's death, but it makes me wonder what it is about America's psyche that identifies with this profile above all others.

I'm glad the trial is over and we can move on to more productive topics.

jjiraffe said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I think your point at the end is apt. My mom was so enraged by this that she has decided to help her local C.P.S. as a volunteer. Maybe this will happen all over? We can only hope.

gailcanoe said...

I've been silent on this case since the beginning. While I haven't watched every second of coverage or paid close attention to the case, I couldn't help but see snipettes of it when watching the morning news programs while I am at the gym and then at home eating breakfast.
I was disappointed in the prosecution's case and had hoped that they would have had stronger, more compelling evidence against Casey Anthony. I knew that Casey wouldn't be convicted of Murder 1, but I thought she'd at least get the manslaughter conviction, so that surprised me. But, I can't blame the jurors because they were instructed that they had to be sure beyond a "reasonable doubt" that Casey had done the crime and that proof wasn't provided.
All in all, I think that Katie from IF to When summed it up best: "As someone who can't have children, it makes me sick to see a mother murder her own child and get away with it. Prison might not be in Casey Anthony's future, but I hope hell is."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Keiko. I can say with certainty that I think it will take a long time for my community to recover from this. While I respect the jury's decision, it will be difficult for this area to come to grips with the fact that there will never be justice for Caylee's death. I can only hope that this case will result in stricter laws to prevent this type of incident happening with other children.