Rep. Anderson: Caylee’s Law issues already addressed in Utah code

When Casey Anthony was found not guilty in the murder trial for the death of her daughter Caylee, I, like many Americans, was shocked.

I was surprised that the jury made that decision, of course, but my greatest concern was that even if Anderson didn’t murder her child, she should be spending some hard time in prison for putting her dead child in a garbage bag, driving her remains around in her car for several days, and dumping those remains on a hillside that was thick with leaves and other refuse. It was very difficult to realize that justice would not be done for that little girl and the community.

The day after the verdict, I started receiving what eventually became hundreds of e-mails from constituents asking me to look into a law that would make it a felony to fail to report a missing or dead child, referred to as a “Caylee’s Law.” Obviously, many people want to make sure that the lack of justice that took place in Florida will not be repeated in Utah.

I agreed that the issue needed to be looked at, so I first contacted Legislative Research as well as the Attorney General’s OIffice to see if Utah law needed to be updated. In speaking with these two offices, there were opinions both in favor of creating new law and against it. We decided that the best place to continue the debate would be with the Statewide Association of Prosecutors. We believed that the members of this group would have the greatest understanding of the situation and the tools that are already available in Utah law for a similar crime.

The meeting was extremely informative. I am happy to report that the prosecutors present were very knowledgeable and thoughtful. We discussed the situation for a good deal of time and they provided me with a great deal of information. Our consensus at the meeting was that there are sufficient laws in Utah to deal with a similar crime. Additionally, creating a “Caylee’s Law” could result in numerous possible unintended consequences. If the crime had taken place in Utah, Ms. Anthony could be charged with two different felony counts: Desecration of a Body (under similar circumstances this would be a 3rd degree felony) and Obstruction of a Murder Investigation (a 2nd degree felony).

Even if prosecutors had not charged Ms. Anthony with these crimes before the trial, the consensus was that since new information about these crimes was presented by her defense during the trial, double jeopardy would not apply. Ms. Anthony could then be put on trial for one or both felonies.

I hope this helps put your mind at ease regarding the very sad situation. Although there isn’t anything we can do regarding the situation in Florida, at least Utah law and Utah’s prosecutors are prepared to deal with a similar situation in our great state.

— Rep. Johnny Anderson, District 34