Getting to the truth about Caylee Anthony's death
by Andrew Vachss
Originally published on the Zero, August 07, 2011
Why doesn't the State of Florida appoint a law guardian to represent the estate of Caylee Anthony?
Under most circumstances, someone acquitted of homicide can still be sued in civil court for causing the "wrongful death" of a person—even a person he or she has been acquitted of murdering.
Having been acquitted, if Casey Anthony now wrote a book not only admitting guilt, but also (assuming she is factually guilty) explaining in detail how the murder was committed, she would get to keep all the resulting money and live the "dolce vita" for real. Maybe it's a coincidence that residing in Florida allows you to shield any "residence" you own from government seizure ... even a palatial mansion.
If Caylee Anthony is to leave any legacy aside from floral tributes and notes, Florida must do for her now what it did not do during her life: appoint a law guardian to protect her interests.
A wrongful–death civil suit is generally filed by the beneficiaries of the "estate" of the person who was killed. Of course, Casey Anthony is not going to sue herself. Given her parents' behavior, they are not likely to sue her either. And the father of the dead child, whoever he might be, is hardly going to step up now.
That leaves only the State to fill the role. As the authority entitled to appoint counsel for a child, the State can appoint a lawyer for Caylee Anthony's estate, and that lawyer can bring suit on behalf of the estate.
In a wrongful-death suit Casey Anthony can be compelled to testify, which was not possible in her criminal trial. She no longer can assert a Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent, because, having been acquitted, she is immune from further criminal prosecution, even if she were to go on national TV tomorrow to admit the homicide.
Of course, Florida doesn't have law guardians for children in abuse and neglect cases. Saves them a lot of money in the short run, which is the only run any politician cares about. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has performed poorly over the years. Maybe that's because they aren't sufficiently funded to provide the trained staff necessary to do the job. And, of course, there's no pesky law guardian for the child to hold DCFS to any standard.
If Caylee Anthony is to leave any legacy aside from floral tributes and notes, Florida must do for her now what it did not do during her life: appoint a law guardian to protect her interests. That lawyer should immediately sue Casey Anthony and her parents, who aided and abetted her. If the suit is successful, the resulting recovery would not go to any of Caylee Anthony's relatives, because, as defendants in the suit, they cannot benefit from the estate. Without any "beneficiaries," the recovery would "escheat," or return to the state of Florida. And the State could use the money to hire and train more child protective workers. It could institute a law–guardian system that would save money in the long haul ... and start saving the lives of Florida's children almost immediately.
Update: Had Anthony been prosecuted on the same grounds as Zinah Jennings, she'd be in prison today.
Update #2: Or, if you prefer another example, try Keishanna Thomas. Additional Information.
© 2011 Andrew Vachss. All rights reserved.