Lori Richards of Daytona Beach, Florida, protests the Casey Anthony verdict in Orlando on July 7. Sentenced to …After Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, Michelle Crowder of Durant, Oklahoma, decided that she had to do something.
"To be honest, I was sickened and angered by the verdict," she told CNN. "I have been watching the trial on TV here and there and felt in my heart that Casey Anthony was guilty, and when I found out it took her a full 31 days to report Caylee's disappearance, and the things she did during those 31 days, I got upset and felt she should be held accountable for that."
"Even if she is truly not guilty for the murder, not being punished for failing to report Caylee's disappearance is wrong," Crowder added.
So the mother of two took matters into her own hands. That evening, she started a petition asking the U.S. government to make it a felony to fail to report a child's disappearance within 24 hours. "I was raised to stand up for what I believe in, and that's what I am doing," Crowder, whose 10-year-old and 7-year-old daughters live with their respective fathers in another part of the state, told Time magazine.
The idea, dubbed Caylee's Law, took off immediately. Within hours of its launch, 15,000 people had signed on. By this morning, just three days after the verdict, the petition at Change.org has more than 725,000 signatures, and is continuing to gain about two new signatures per second.
Support for the creation of Caylee's Law isn't limited to activists online. State legislators in Oklahoma and New York have pledged to introduce bills to create a similar law in their states, and three state lawmakers in Florida, where Caylee lived and died, have already drafted their own versions of Caylee's Law.
"What we witnessed in the case of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was truly tragic," Florida state representative Bill Hager said yesterday. Sentenced to four years in jail for lying to law enforcement, but credited for "good behavior" and three years she's already spent behind bars, Casey Anthony is due to be released from prison on July 13.
"Placing a law on the books requiring parents and guardians to report missing children who are in significant danger in a timely manner will ensure that parents are held accountable for their actions," Hager pointed out. "It will also assure that we put justice on the side of those among us who are most vulnerable. And finally, it will put an end to the kind of irresponsible and outrageous behavior we observed with Caylee's mother."
Right now, failure to report the disappearance of a child in a timely manner is not legally considered child neglect or abuse. Enforcement of criminal laws usually falls to the state, so a law like this isn't likely to fly at the federal level, Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law scholar at Harvard, told the Wall Street Journal.
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