A dying cause: Caylee Anthony

Okay, okay. Let me get this out of the way: today’s verdict in the Casey Anthony trial has me hooked.

Too bad it’s over, eh?

Because until today, I had the following mentality, quoting a facebook status from a friend, who was quoting someone else: “It would be nice if CNN had Casey Anthony-style coverage of the 1000s of African kids wiped out by genocide.” I also didn’t care because I refused to care because everyone else cared.

But something happened with this “not guilty” verdict. I began to care.

I cared because I remember following the frantic search for Caylee Anthony, Casey’s 2-year-old daughter at the center of this, when it began in late summer 2008. Caylee looked like Kalista – my daughter, who shared Caylee’s features and nearly her date of birth.

“How awful,” I thought, “it must be to not know where your child is.

“How truly terrifying it must feel to wonder if he or she is getting enough to eat, has an adequate place to sleep and isn’t being tormented.”

I was eating dinner with Kalista in our Kinston, N.C., breakfast nook when they found Caylee’s body. I don’t recall caring much when her mother was charged with her murder.

“A tragedy,” I thought, not even being close to foreseeing the media-fueled transition I was about to endure – one that turned me from a “what’s done is done” kind of guy to a “this woman should pay for what she did to her child” moron.

At least when it came to this.

In my defense, as I said, Caylee reminded me of my daughter. Similar conceptions; similar upbringings. Similar hurdles to be overcome by the custodial parents. I could, at that time, see myself in Casey’s situation: just a year beyond the “I’m going to be a perfect parent” fairy tale and entering the land of “okay, this is really a lot of work and sacrifice” mentality.

Difference is (I don’t mean to sound like a braggart) I gained enough from my daughter that the hardships weren’t visible beyond the horizon of joy. I no longer wanted to spend Friday night at a bar; I wanted Friday night with an animated movie and my baby on my lap, laughing at nonsense until she fell asleep against my shoulder.

I don’t think Casey ever made that switch. She seemed to still want Friday at a bar. She wanted to be a mother when it suited her – not a parent when her daughter needed one. And that’s why she got rid of Caylee.

Mind you, this is only my opinion.

So to hear Casey’s lawyer found a loophole in the American system of justice – ya know, the one O.J. used: the “beyond a reasonable doubt” clause – and got her off the hook for her daughter’s death truly devastated me. Part of the reason I didn’t care about the case at first was because of my friend’s facebook status. I thought for sure Casey was going down; therefore, I didn’t worry too much about it.

However, she didn’t. She isn’t. And it’s because of our American system of justice, which showed its ugliest colors one day after we celebrated our nation’s independence from Great Britain, said common sense doesn’t matter anymore. Determining that no one else in the entire world could have possibly committed a particular crime other than the person on trial doesn’t amount to a hill of beans anymore. There are no exceptions – either a crime is proven or it didn‘t happen.

And if it isn’t proven, we don’t consider the victim when contemplating the elasticity of the Constitution. That’s the American way, baby!

Or is it? What if we looked beyond the knowledge of the Orange County, Florida, coroner’s office for answers to Caylee’s cause of death? What if we inquired beyond the state’s – even our nation’s – borders for answers? Could we have then found if the Duct tape around Caylee Anthony’s animal- and insect-disturbed skull had anything to do with ending her ability to breathe air, ultimately causing her death? Could doing so have ruled out the possibility of an accident?

We’d have to go outside “jurisdiction” rules for that – which may set a precedent that would cost taxpayers too much money, take too much time and (this may be the biggest reason why we don’t) expose our own professionals’ inability to do their jobs.

I can see that; I really can. We can’t be consulting coroners from around the globe every time someone’s cause of death is “undetermined.” But this – like it or not – was a case everyone knew about.

And that’s just it. It’s the crux of what I’m writing. While I do not think Caylee Marie Anthony’s life is any more important to humanity than an unnamed infant in Africa, I do think – thanks to the media coverage her mother’s case generated – the investigation of her death and ensuing media coverage of it, as well as her alleged assailant’s murder trial, has exposed one of the most heinous examples of the American legal system being inadequate.

The person who killed Caylee, according to those with common sense, has gotten away with murder. We’re never going to “know,” although we’ll always know. She’ll be the one making millions of dollars off of book sales and talk show appearances. She’ll be the same one who smiled with relief as the verdict was read this afternoon rather than appear poised to find her daughter’s killer.

And sadly, it’s a precedent that will likely never die.

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