Fla. bill inspired by Caylee Anthony clears panel

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Caylee Anthony

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill inspired by the Caylee Anthony case is advancing in the Florida Legislature, just don't call it "Caylee's Law."

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the measure that would make it a felony to knowingly and willingly give police false information about a missing child 16 or under who dies or is seriously injured. The maximum penalty would be five years in prison for each false statement.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said his bill would avoid unintended consequences that could result from most of at least eight other measures filed in response to Casey Anthony's acquittal of murdering Caylee, her 2-year-old daughter, in Orlando.

Most of those bills would set deadlines for parents to report missing or deceased children. At least six, three in each chamber, are titled "Caylee's Law."

Negron, though, won't even mention the toddler or her mother. He simply refers to Caylee's death as "the Orlando case."

The bill would make "Florida a safer place for children everywhere unrelated to any particular case," Negron said. He acknowledged, though, it grew out of the verdict that stirred anger and resentment among many in the public and Legislature who disagreed with it.

The bill (SB 858) was drafted by a select committee on child safety chaired by Negron that Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, appointed shortly after Anthony's acquittal. She was convicted, though, on four counts of giving police false information and sentenced to the maximum under current law of one year for each offense. Anthony served the sentence while in jail awaiting her murder trial.

Under Negron's bill she could have received up to 20 years.

Caylee wasn't reported missing until 31 days after she vanished, but there's currently no legal requirement for reporting a missing child within a certain time span, and Negron said he wants to leave it that way. Law enforcement officials testified before the select committee that they were worried parents may misinterpret those deadlines as waiting periods.

Some of the "Caylee's Law" bills would set deadlines of 24 or 48 hours to report a child missing and one or two hours to report a death. Some would apply to children 12 and under and some to those 6 and under.

The Caylee's Law bill (HB 49) that most closely resembles Negron's measure includes the five-year maximum for intentionally making false reports and simply requires that missing children be reported in a "timely manner" and deaths "forthwith." None of the other bills has yet had a committee hearing. Negron's bill has two more committee stops before it can get a floor vote.

Caylee's case is a rarity because nearly all parents of missing children promptly notify police, Negron said.

"But we want to make sure that we won't tolerate people lying to police when there's a child unaccounted for," he said.

Negron, a lawyer, also doesn't share the anger that manyhave expressed against the jury.

"It's not our job to agree or disagree with a particular jury," Negron said. "We should respect the work of all our juries who do the best they can with the facts that they have."


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