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'Caylee's Law' Stalls In Iowa, Other States: Bill Inspired By Casey Anthony Case Held Up

Caylee Anthony

By MIKE GLOVER   02/23/12 07:53 AM ET  AP

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Lawmakers under pressure from constituents in the months after the Casey Anthony trial have found it's not easy to toughen penalties for parents who don't immediately report missing children.

Seventeen states tried to pass "Caylee's Law" legislation – named after Anthony's 2-year-old daughter whose 2008 disappearance in Florida was not reported for a month – but many of these efforts have failed or stalled over concerns that proposed changes were too broad, and in some cases, not necessary. Iowa is the latest state to face difficulty trying to strengthen penalties involving how and when parents report missing children. Lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have required parents to know their children were safe in any 24-hour period.

A jury found Anthony not guilty in July in the death of her daughter, whose body was found in woods near her grandparents' Orlando home six months after she was reported missing. The trial, which was shown on live television, captivated the country, and her acquittal triggered outrage among hundreds of thousands of people who posted about the case on social media sites.

Lawmakers also heard from constituents who urged them to take action.

"They saw what they thought was an injustice. We need to have some response," said Iowa Rep. Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola.

But passing legislation attempting to strengthen missing children's laws has been difficult in many states. Only one, New Jersey, has put a new law on its books, said Rich Williams, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislature's Criminal Justice Program.

The Iowa legislative panel rejected the proposed law Wednesday after some questioned whether it was too vague. Marty Ryan, a lobbyist for the Iowa chapter of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Justice Reform Coalition, speculated that it would require parents to check in daily with children sent to summer camp.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, who co-sponsored the Iowa bill, acknowledged the measure needed work. "We clearly are moving too fast on this," said Kaufmann, R-Wilton.

By not approving the bill, the panel made it likely the proposal wouldn't meet a legislative deadline and would be dropped for this session.

Unlike the Iowa proposal, Williams said, most of the measures proposed in other statehouses require a parent to know a child is missing, avoiding the scenario of having to check on a child at camp. But he said many states have become stuck on determining the age in which the proposals should apply.

In some cases, lawmakers have questioned whether stronger missing children laws are necessary.

Nebraska state Sen. Tony Fulton said he was inspired by the Anthony case to introduce the bill that would increase penalties for concealing a death. But at a hearing in January, Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha called the proposal a "feel-good law" that would make little difference in most homicide cases, including those involving a parent accused of killing a child.

"If you have enough to prove they dumped the body, you probably have enough to prove that, at a minimum, they're an accessory after the fact and probably responsible for this crime," Harr said.

A committee held a hearing Wednesday on the other Nebraska bill, which requires a parent or guardian to report a child missing within 72 hours, but lawmakers took no action.

In South Dakota, a bill was approved overwhelmingly by the state Senate that gives parents 48 hours to report a missing child. State Attorney General Marty Jackley said the measure is needed because the state dealt with its own case last year in which a mother in Winner gave birth and left the baby to die in a bathroom. The woman was prosecuted for manslaughter and desertion of a child, Jackley said.

The South Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers opposed the bill, saying it was too broad. The measure is set for a hearing this week in the House.

The Florida Legislature also is still considering a bill, but it has been changed to make it more narrowly focused on people who "knowingly and willingly" mislead police, resulting in the death of a child.

Some lawmakers say passing missing child reporting legislation is not the solution because in a case such as Caylee Anthony's a measure forcing requirements on parents wouldn't have saved the girl. Iowa Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, said the lesson with the Anthony murder trial was not that penalties should be enhanced for failing to report a missing child, but that prosecutors need to do a better job of building their cases.

"They didn't have the evidence in that case," Wolfe said.

___

Associated Press writers Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., and Veronica Zaragovia In Pierre, S.D., contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

CASEY ANTHONY PERSONAL PHOTOS:
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  • Casey Anthony Personal Photo

    The bombshell trial of Casey Anthony captivated the nation's attention. The Florida mother, pictured in this photo from her Photobucket.com account, was found not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photo

    Amidst all of the hoopla surrounding the trial, some of Casey Anthony's personal photographs were released. Several of Anthony's photographs were used as evidence.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Prosecutors alleged that Casey Anthony killed her daughter, then misled authorities who were searching for the toddler. But her attorneys insisted that Caylee drowned in the family's swimming pool. The defendant's lawyers claimed that after years of abuse, Casey Anthony felt unable to reveal the truth.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Prosecutors attempted to cast Casey Anthony as a party girl -- revealing that she took part in a "Hot Body" contest just four days after she claimed her daughter drowned in her family's pool.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Lawyers showed jurors photos of Casey Anthony partying, like this image, which was posted on the defendant's Photobucket.com account.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Casey Anthony reportedly told investigators that her daughter had been kidnapped by a nanny, but during the trial her attorneys claimed the child drowned.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    One question that remains unanswered is the identity of Caylee Anthony's father. Casey Anthony reportedly told friends that the child's father was a "one night thing."

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    But her lawyers have floated a theory involving incest. Casey Anthony's attorneys pressed an FBI witness to tell jurors that the agency conducted a paternity test on the defendant's brother, Lee Anthony. The test came back negative.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Investigators also conducted a paternity test on Casey Anthony's father, George Anthony, which also came back negative.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Tests also revealed that Jesse Grund, a man Casey Anthony once dated, was not Caylee Anthony's father.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Casey Anthony's family said they knew something was amiss when they detected a foul odor coming from the back of the defendant's car in July, 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    The trunk of the car actually contained a bag of trash, but prosecutors claimed that Caylee Anthony's body decomposed in the rear of the vehicle before it was moved to another location.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    An insect expert for the defense stated that the body didn't decompose in the car because there wasn't any evidence of bugs that are often attracted to remains.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Caylee Anthony's remains were discovered near the family's home in December, 2008.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Prosecutors alleged that Casey Anthony killed her daughter by placing duct tape over her mouth. Duct tape was discovered wrapped around the todder's skull when the child's remains were recovered.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Casey Anthony was indicted on October 14, 2008, on charges of first-degree murder.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    The Casey Antony trial became the year's biggest legal event. Spectators lined up every morning to get tickets to the trial. In one case, attendees got into a fistfight over access to the courtroom.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    The case became one of the most monumental trials in Florida's history.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Some photos of Casey Anthony and Caylee Anthony were classified as evidence.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Jury selection for the Casey Anthony trial began on May 9, 2011.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    Alongside capital murder, Casey Anthony was also charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and misleading law enforcement in the case of the death of her daughter, Caylee Anthony.

  • Casey Anthony Personal Photos

    The prosecution sought the death penalty.

  • Man Who Wants To Marry Casey Anthony

    Meet Don Gennaro Annunziata. He was at the sentencing protest in front of the Orange County Courthouse. Don said he is a 38-year-old window washer from Orlando.

  • Casey Anthony Bachelor Number Two

    Bachelor number two is Tim Allen, a 24-year-old resident of Orlando, Fla.

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