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Globe Editorial

‘Caylee’s Law’: Strange cases make bad bills

Caylee Anthony Caylee Anthony (Associated Press)
July 16, 2011

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It’s understandable why state Representative David Linsky of Natick, who shared the frustration felt by many in the “not guilty’’ verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, would file legislation requiring parents to notify authorities within 24 hours of the death of a child. This certainly seems like a reasonable expectation, and it’s more lenient than the national law many activists are proposing.

But the bill he filed is still ill-advised - as are most laws created in response to a one-of-a-kind incident. Linsky’s bill, as it was filed, is written vaguely: A parent or guardian who knows a child has died must “notify law enforcement or emergency medical personnel of the death of said minor child, within twenty-four hours of death. . . ’’ This would criminalize parents whose child died on a camping trip, but who couldn’t get back to civilization on time. Authorities would be unlikely to prosecute in such a scenario, but it’s telling that the law hasn’t been fully thought out by its authors. And the time limit is problematic as well: Neither a parent nor the most sophisticated forensic methods can pin down a time of death to a very high degree of accuracy, which would make it difficult to apply the law in many instances.

The Anthony trial was a one-off event. In most cases in which a parent acts negligently or abusively, authorities can charge them with any one of the bevy of anti-violence and child-protection laws on the books. Despite the understandable emotional outpouring in the wake of the verdict, there isn’t a need for further legislation. Linsky’s act may have noble intentions, but it adds an unnecessary complication to a tragic occurrence.