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The Takeaway From the Casey Anthony Trial

The Takeaway From the Casey Anthony Trial

Cut to the chase: There was a striking and dramatic verdict yesterday (July 5, 2011) to the Casey Anthony trial, which has been going on for the past three years in Orlando, Florida. The trail concerned the death of a two-year-old girl (Caylee), and her mother Casey, who stood trial on the murder of Caylee that was allegedly committed by dosing her with chloroform, suffocating her with duct tape and dumping her body in a wooded area. Yesterday’s verdict cleared Casey Anthony of all murder charges of her daughter Caylee (which would have likely carried a death penalty sentence had she been found guilty) and instead was found guilty of far lesser charges of providing false or misleading information about the case to law enforcement. For those of you who knew little to nothing about this case before yesterday (or even before now) there is no need to feel bad (I too knew virtually nothing of this case before the verdict was announced on Tuesday). However, for every person that passed over the tabloid reports of the case over the past few months/years, there were many (especially parents) who were utterly transfixed with the gruesome and tragic nature of the case. It is safe to say that the case captured the imagination (albeit a dark side of the imagination) of many parents struggling to grasp the meaning of the crime.

Much like the O.J. Simpson trial of the early 1990s, people have been utterly riveted by this case, with both sympathy for the tragic Caylee and absolute contempt for the mother on trial (I can’t say I have heard much defensive chatter for the scorned Casey who, at best, acted with an unimaginable level of neglect when it came to the wellbeing of her child). It is no surprise that the not guilty verdict handed down yesterday enraged many of the faithful following this case. According to the jury, the evidence was far too circumstantial, tenuous, and indirect to provide a clear conviction, so there for she was acquitted on all charges except for that of providing false information to investigators.

The particulars of the case and the allegations are truly horrible and not worth recounting here (if you are curious, you can read reports just about anywhere) but possibly the takeaway from all of this is not how justice was or wasn’t served (in this case justice was served in the sense that Anthony got a fair trial – but it still sucks for everyone that cared about the death of this little girl), but how we as concerned citizens and parents reacted and internalized this tragic tale. For many (especially parents) moving through the specifics of this case required them to try on both what it would be like to be the accused mother and what it would be like to give in to all of your most base and unreasonable reactions to the frustration of parenting. Lisa Belkin, who writes on issues of parenting for the Motherlode blog on The New York Times website said:

“And for some, I think, the fascination is mingled with fear. Not of the unthinkable, but of the familiar. The flashes of anger, of temper, of regret, or inattention that can be part of parenting. The moments of wishing you could trade the exhaustion and responsibility for a former, less enmeshed life. Is this case what happens when those flashes and moments explode and take control?”

Beyond the undeniable tragedy of the case (there is a child who died senselessly and a world of pain that continues to swirl around her absence) and the sordid details exploited by the media circus, what are we to derive from all of this pain and commotion? Does the case, or our fascination with the case reveal something about who we are as parents or fallible beings? Is it the macabre nature of the case, or the extremity, that intrigues us or in some dark reaches of our minds are we trying not to imagine what it would be like to fall so far from being the model parents that we think we really are?

Read more: Babies, Caregiving, Children, Family, Mental Wellness, News & Issues, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

74 comments

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4:17AM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

9:51AM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

I think Casey Anthony has covered up so much in her life that she just keeps on going. Strange she did not finish high school and so very, very close. That was selfish on her part and she cheated herself. An education is not something you sell or give away. It is forever. Here she showed bad judgment. She possibly feels sorry for self. If she had a horrible dream concerning being violated by Father or Brother, then she is using this as a crutch in life to do as she please. If she is telling the truth. A lot of people will talk to hear themselves talk. I think she was one. I think she wrote so people would read too. We have no idea what all else she has done that has never been revealed too.

10:12PM PDT on Aug 9, 2011

In many cases when one murders an animal, the judge forbids him/her from ever owning animals again. Casey Anthony proved she's not a fit mother. Therefore, she too should never be able to have/or be around children again.

8:21AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

There is so much child abused here in are world.

8:57AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

A section, I guess through Care2 hiccups has disappeared from the post below. I state that the writer of the article "Let's Give Casey Anthony a Break" suggested that because of the jury's acquittal..., and, I was greatly offended by that article and the inference by Lissa.

8:48AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

I think what the writer here is trying to convey is not that we all have the potential to murder but, rather, we all are "fallible" human beings. CA was depicted as an "exceptional mother", "loving mother", by some who knew her and yet she committed murder. How loving or exceptional as a human being could she have been to commit such an atrocity? But, that was the perception of many who testified and I believe, to a great extent, helped the defense's arguments that there was no murder. Anthony is sociopath who has no moral conscience and I compare her with Scott Peterson who had been depicted as a loving, devoted husband. The difference is, he was convicted and is on death row and Casey Anthony was rewarded for her crime.
The writer suggests that the jury acquitted her and now the verdict much be, through public opinion, the same. Not so! Justice was not served and while I do not wish violence to be perpetrated against this evil woman, I do hope that everyday for the rest of her life, she is reminded of the horrible crime she committed against her precious child!

7:51PM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Amanda V.,
I agree, that part of the article is pure BS. I have 2 grown daughters that I never once thought I'd be better off w/o! Never entered my head! And I divorced their father when they were 4 and 6 yrs. old, raising them alone because he was an absent parent. When this Casey Anthony case first happened in 2008, I could not comprehend how anyone could do that to a child, never mind their own! I visualized my girls when they were 3, and remembered how totally precious they were and to even imagine that happening to them sickened me. It was really unimaginable! It floored me when she got off scott free. But, one of these days, she'll screw up and hopefully justice will be done.

7:09PM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Michele, I am with Millie 100%. In addition, no one said that the child was dismembered. Were you watching another trial? Whose car smelled like a dead body? It sickens me to think about those computer searches. Remember, "Timer55"? The exact number of days from Caylee's disappearance to her birthday. The exact number of days that Casey could have the "bella vita" until her mother would demand to see Caylee.

1:36PM PDT on Jul 27, 2011

Caylee is not alone. There have been so many similar cases where children have died. We just didn't get the media attention. Child abuse is the problem, not Casey Anthony. What leads to Child Abuse is the problem. And, not just in this country/culture. There are some cultures where even worse happens and it is accepted.

7:28AM PDT on Jul 23, 2011

The victim wa the baby. I can't seem to get her out of my thoughts when Casey Anthony's name comes up...and because she is the victim the focus should be on her. OK, so the re wasn't enough evidence to convict Ms. Anthony....but does that mean that it is OK for Caylee to be dead and no is named as responsible. I don't get this!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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