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July 7, 2011

Casey Anthony case inspires Md. legislation

Stunned by the not-guilty verdicts this week in Florida's Casey Anthony murder case, Maryland Sen. Nancy Jacobs wants to make it a felony for a parent not to report the death of a child.

Jacobs said dozens of outraged constituents have contacted her and asked her to do something. The Senate minority leader said she is drafting a bill to present in the next legislative session.

She's now examining criminalizing the failure of a parent, guardian or legal caretaker to inform authorities that a child has gone missing or has died -- new crime categories that several local top prosecutors said could prove helpful to them.

A Florida jury acquitted Anthony of murder and child abuse in the death of 2-year-old Caylee, convicting her only of less-serious charges related to lying to the police. A judge today sentenced the 25-year-old to four years, the maximum sentence under the law. Because of the time she served while awaiting trial, she is set to be released July 13.

While jurors who have talked to the media said prosecutors did not present enough evidence to prove murder or abuse beyond a reasonable doubt, those involved with the case, including Anthony's defense attorneys, agree the young mother did not report her child's death in a timely manner.

That's where Jacobs hopes to step in if a similar Maryland case ever were to arise.

"People are saying to me, 'Good grief, that woman's as guilty as can be, and they're not doing anything,'" said Jacobs, a Republican representing Harford and Cecil counties.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger says making it illegal for parents to leave a child's death unreported is a good idea -- and would be another tool for prosecutors in the event of an Anthony-style situation.

"I think under the right, unique circumstances it would be very helpful," Shellenberger said.

Harford County States Attorney Joseph Casilly said Jacobs' idea appears to close a loophole.

"You wouldn't think that you would actually have to require a parent or guardian to report a child missing or dead, but we're in an age where there is a need here," Casilly said.

High-profile crimes -- even those that occur far from Maryland -- frequently inspire local legislators to take action.

Reacting to the December 2009 kidnapping and death of Sarah Foxwell on the Eastern Shore, to which a registered sex offender later pleaded guilty, state lawmakers proposed dozens of sex offender bills.

Jacobs, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and scores of other lawmakers backed those efforts, leading to, among other laws, new reporting provisions about when a child is in regular contact with a known sex offender. Foxwell's guardian was dating Thomas Leggs Jr., who now is serving a life sentence for killing the 11-year-old.

Although some lawmakers and defense attorneys have warned against legislating in reaction to an emotional, headline-grabbing crime, Shellenberger said he knows from experience that it can have practical implications in the courtroom -- even if they come years later.

One striking example: Baltimore County was able to prosecute and convict David Miller not only for the first-degree murder of Elizabeth Walters, but also for the death of her unborn baby. The 24-year-old had been pregnant when Miller shot her outside of a shopping plaza.

Medical examiners determined that Walters' fetus would have been viable outside of the womb, triggering a seldom-used Maryland law that had been on the books since the early 1990s. Lawmakers had passed it after being inspired by a controversial case in California.

"It's a good example of a law where, eventually, the facts were there to use it," Shellenberger said.

Jacobs said she is researching Maryland law as it regards to duty of a parent, guardian or caretaker to report a missing or dead child and is in the process of having a bill drafted.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 1:37 PM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Crime & Justice


Yes our voices are not going unheard! Thank you! JUSTICE FOR CAYLEE. and ALL innocent children that are abused, and or killed!

Senator Jacobs has a good idea, but I would modify it slightly. I would make it illegal to fail to report the death of anyone for who you are the legal guardian.

That way, you would cover those who might fail to report the death of a parent or developmentally challenged adult as well.

Just something to consider.

From Julie: Her idea does include legal guardians and caretakers. I'll add a line about that shortly. Thanks.

Please don't let a bad situation be a rash rush to bad legisltaion.

That bill would not do anything if they made it into a law, seh would have been found not guilty on that too. She was in jail wehn they found out Caylee was murdered so she could not have reported it. The law should be that not reporting a child missing within 24 hours should be a felony. I just don't see how you can drive off in a car with a child in a carseat, move in with your boyfriend without knowing where that child is .Not "ever" reporting that child missing , her mother did, and not be responsible for any part of her death when they find her. Yes, legislation should be introduced in every state like this , not just Md. The justice system in Florida passes child sex offendor reform laws and completely left this one wide open .

Tracy: Actually, her defense was Caylee died accidently in the family swimming pool. If the suggested law was in place - at the very least she would not have been able to use that defense.

But I agree, there should be a law against not reporting a child missing.

I agree this should be a federal law applied to every state. This is about a child not a sociopath adult! Seems Casey will see her actions are a national concern not just a party girl problem......

Um, so if a child is missing and murdered, but the parent only reports the child missing (in the hopes that the child is safe) the parent can be charged with a felony? The problem in the Anthony case is that the prosecution failed, not the law. Wait, perhaps you can write a law to charge prosecutors with a felony count of failing to gain a felony conviction; geesh!

What we really need is the General Assembly and Governor to concentrate on stop being a socialist money grabbing oligarcy and find ways to attract jobs and finally balance their budget without taxing us to death. We might actually need a law making it illegal for the state government to rape and ravage us year after year!

Be careful what you wish for. As we enact more laws for more stuff for more perceived wrong-doing the potential for felony counts will start to mount. Then you get into 3-strikes territory over stupid stuff. Try finding a job with a felony under your belt, it won't go so well. Having a small amount of drugs in your pocket can be a felony, a minor assault can become a felony, so are a number of other offenses that don't seem to merit felony status. Once you have that felony you are tainted in so many ways The urban poor have been the ones that have suffered the most so far. The concept of making any crime a felony is sexy to most politicians. But the felony disease is no picnic and it stands ready to invade what your is your upper middleclass suburban neighborhood when you let this Nancy Grace of a politician have her way . Be careful what you wish for.

The number of unreported missing / dead are _________? (Surely this "new law does not simply apply to Caylee Anthony?)

The "Justice" said new law brings to Caylee Anthony = nil.

The number of children protected by such a law = 0.

Making new laws when collective outrage is felt makes everyone feel as if s/he is "doing something." If it feels good, make a law, one may get re-elected at the very least (and politicians look as if they are responsive and "doing something").

Tracy, She was in jail when the child was found murdered, but the child had been missing, and Caycee did not report it. (Remember Zanny the Nanny) She should have reported it then(if the nanny story had been true). The grandmother reported the child missing, and not her own mother.

Jacobs sees something on courtv that upsets her (nothing to do with Maryland) and sees a chance to get some press by introducing unnecessary legislation. Typical.

If American keep on doing this, the terrorist does not have to do anything...all they have to do is pray!

Please no more laws, I do not believe that the woman in Florida would have done anything different if that law existed in Florida. Maybe another year would have been tacked on to her jail term. We do not need another law for this one time event of a person even her defense attorney said needed lots of help.

Casy will be let go next Wednesday but what time??? I say between 12AM and 2 AM.

I am pretty sure that the failure to report the death of anyone has happened many times in this state, but it takes a case in Florida for a lawmaker to finally care? Get out of here!

I think the root idea requiring the reporting of a child's death in your legal care is a good idea. I would specify in your legal care because you do not want a parent charged with failing to report a child's death if in fact the child was left in the legal care of another guardian.

Reporting the child missing is a whole other issue all together. How do you define the timeline of 'missing'? From when the child was supposed to return from a sleepover? The same amount of time you must wait before filing a missing persons report at a police station? Who bears responsibility if the child was in transit between divorcee parents? Etc.

Sure make everything a felony. Finally EVERYONE will be in jail and not just folks from urban areas. At least the playing field will finally be somewhat equal...

Ugh, Nancy Jacobs is the worst kind of opportunist. You don't need to pass a law every time a jury verdict doesn't go the way you want it to.

The jury was not given proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. Not Johnny Cochrane said, "if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." We have enough laws already. If the representatives stopped making laws just so they would be noticed and went out and came up with solutions as to how to stop the bleeding we would all be better off.

My understanding is that a child can and should be reported missing to the police as soon as possible - unllike missing persons report for an adult. There is NO acceptable reason for not reporting a missing child.

"Caylee's Law" as being proposed online is cruel to grieving parents, and most likely unconstitutional. Please sign the petition at

My children were abducted twice by their non-custodial parent. AA. co police would not take a missing persons report for 48 hours. AA co. magestrats will not issue a missing persons report unless YOU can prove they are missing. The FBI will not take a report until the local police report the missing children. The YWCA and other organization need this time to try to drum up false abuse charges. Poly Clash died in that time.wit

Such a law will create more problems than it solves. In the end the prosecution wasn't able to prove it's case. This law wouldn't have changed that situation.

I feel the proposed legislation is stupid and beyond the role of government. The state did not meet their burden of proof and now the Senator is proposing a reactionary law, essentially lowering the burden by providing a "We'll get you anyway" felony. How many Felonies will we need to make up for poor prosecutors?

Just another dumb law on the books. In law school there was a saying, strange facts make for bad law. Well this proposed legislation is a textbook example of the saying. People who were not on the jury and never got to see the evidence are trying to act as jury now, not realizing they were being manipulated by the media simply out to sell a product by sensationalizing the trial.`

OK...Under the 5th amendment, one has the right to remain silent and not to incriminate oneself. (Ever hear those words?)
So, Sen. Jacobs wants to pass a statute to make it a crime for someone to exercise his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination by not speaking to the police?
I thought that as a conservative Republican she favored the Constitution and the intent of the founders. I guess I was wrong.

And, if I may add..... So the law passes. Some family has a child who has been sick at home and the child dies. The family has to call the funeral home, their clergy, their family, etc. Now, they have to call the cops too. And, what do the police do? Come to the house and investigate? Will an autopsy be done? Do the police have to call the doctors and review the medical records. Is Sen. Jacobs prepared to fund the additional police and prosecution resources to investigate each death of a minor? Or, as someone suggests, if one includes parents and those over whom one is a guardian, will Sen. Jacobs support a tax increase to pay for those investigations?

she should go free...the law allows a woman to kill her's called abortion..or in this case a late term go girl!
O'malley and the dems are behind ya

A law requiring a murderer to report that death? Laws mean nothing to someone willing to commit murder.

This law would allow someone like Casey Anthony to be prosecuted for failure to report her daughter missing or in the case of the drowning scenario, dead. It should only apply to cases where the death or child missing was concealed from the authorities. Children dying from illnesses etc would not be applicable. Come on, use some common sense here. Perhaps the law will mean nothing to a murderer, BUT it will enable the law to prosecute them.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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