It was Father's Day 2008 when 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was last seen alive. Since then, a multimedia maelstrom has churned details about the toddler's disappearance, the search and recovery of her body and the trial of her mother, Casey Anthony, who was accused of killing her baby girl.
On Tuesday, a jury acquitted 25-year-old Casey Anthony of her daughter's death. The prosecutors said the child was suffocated with duct tape by her young mom who partied, tattooed herself and lied to investigators in the month her daughter was missing. The defense argued the toddler accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool and that her mother suffered from emotional distress caused by sexual abuse from her father. The consensus in the court of public opinion is that Casey Anthony got away with murder.
It seems everyone has gotten on the Nancy Grace bandwagon. The HLN host didn't hold back on her assessment of the verdict, saying Tuesday, "The devil is dancing."
Why has this case fueled such disdain?
Stuart Fischoff, a senior editor at the Journal of Media Psychology, told the Los Angeles Times: "This is scarier than the average murder case because there's a sacredness that we assign to motherhood. The idea that a mother could kill her child flies in the face of every archetypal notion we have. It's monstrous. And we're revolted by that, but we're also fascinated. And we want revenge."
As a mom, what has happened in this case has left me unsettled. Like the jury, I don't know -- and neither does Nancy Grace -- if Anthony killed her child. I wasn't there. I don't know Casey Anthony. I don't know how Caylee died.
What I do know is that moms make mistakes. My husband and I have spent countless sleepless nights strategizing on better ways to be a parent. We've agonized over what we've done wrong and how we've potentially screwed up our children's lives. But we try to do better and we hope we've learned from our mistakes.
Every mom has a horror story about being a "bad parent," but most of those stories don't end with a child dying.
This is why it's so hard to defend Casey Anthony. She may not be guilty of a crime, but she certainly didn't act like a responsible parent. Here's why:
- --Casey Anthony never reported her child was missing or dead. In fact, it was her mother, Cindy Anthony, who called 911 to report Casey for stealing her car, saying it smelled like a dead body on July 16, 2008. Minutes later, Cindy called back to report Caylee missing after Casey admitted she had not seen her for weeks.
- --In the 31 days before Caylee was reported missing, Casey Anthony did not look for her missing child, according to testimony. Instead, she moved in with her then-boyfriend, got a tattoo, went shopping with stolen checks and partied at Orlando nightclubs.
- --Casey Anthony repeatedly lied to investigators. She was found guilty of four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. Even her legal team opened her defense by admitting that Anthony had lied about a babysitter having stolen her daughter Caylee a month earlier, claiming the child had drowned instead.
I do believe the defense's argument that Casey Anthony was hiding emotional distress, but I don't think it was over past sexual abuse. After all, what mother wouldn't be distraught over the disappearance or death of her child?
I want to believe that Casey Anthony loved her child. I want to believe that this was an accidental drowning, the twentysomething mom panicked, she covered up her child's death, she lied to police, she cried over Caylee. No parent is perfect. She was not perfect. I'm not a perfect mom either.
But the one fact of this case that haunts me is that the skeletal remains of tiny Caylee Anthony were found one-quarter mile from the Anthony home on Dec. 11, 2008.
The thought of that baby girl's lifeless body alone in the woods makes me wonder what kind of mother would dishonor her child in such a way?
That's why it's hard to defend Casey Anthony.
Moms make mistakes. Unfortunately, in this bad parent story, the child is dead.