So, let's say you have the Casey Anthony case. And, since you have visionary powers, you already know that a capital murder charge will not get a conviction. What would you charge under Texas law? Be creative.
I didn't watch the case that closely, but I haven't figured out why they charged capital murder to begin with. That's an awfully high bar to reach in a child homicide case. It's an interesting dynamic that I've seen happen several times over the years in child abuse cases--some jurors just don't want to believe that any parent would INTENTIONALLY kill their own child.
Under Texas law I would have probably charged Injury to a Child and alleged all 4 culpable mental states. Abandoning or Endangering a Child under P.C. 22.041 would also be a consideration. 2nd Degree Tampering With Evidence under P.C. 37.09 might also fit based upon the disposition of the body.
These are a few that come to mind.
One with visionary power should certainly be capable of creativity. Since the Anthony indictment never even identified the manner of death involved, it seems basically a foregone conclusion that proving Casey acted "from a premeditated design to effect the death of Caylee" was likely doomed to failure. To me, proof of intent to kill under Texas law might have been a bit easier, but still no piece of cake, without a more precise theory than "suffocation somewhere, somehow." The second allegation, "did knowingly or willfully cause" serious bodily injury seems more reasonable, but even alleging willfully would likely just cause confusion and you still need a manner of death or good idea about the nature of the conduct. The third theory: "did by culpable negligence fail or omit to provide with the care, supervision and services necessary to maintain health," seems difficult to prove also, when you cannot identify what was necessary.
I know it is possible to prove culpability even without proof of exactly how someone died or was killed. But, frankly, I am not sure how you say proof of recklessness is any easier than knowingly when the nature of the conduct remains a mystery. But, I somehow think it would be harder to defend against a reckless allegation. So, my vote would be for manslaughter, or to make it more case specific, reckless injury to a child. Tampering with evidence would be a worthwhile choice if you gave up on proving who or what caused the death.
I haven't read the indictment, so I don't know what flaws were in the Anthony pleadings. What I saw of the trial proved capital murder to me. Duct tape over the skull's nose and mouth? Chloroform? Throwing the child away like garbage? Nothing but lies coming out of the defendant's mouth?
So it was a circumstantial case - but not guilty of anything? No way. The verdict can not be justified, except under a theory that jurors now want to see "super guilty" cases presented.
My only question is whether the prosecution could have waited in indicting the case. I don't know if it would have gotten better over time, but if the heat was off of Casey would her big mouth have proven to be her worst enemy?
And while I'm at it - what relevance was there to George Anthony's affair? To his sucidal ideations? Even if he was involved, does that absolve Casey? The defense was allowed to throw all kinds of skunks in the jury box.
Good question, JB. I can't be creative enough for THAT jury. Seems like they had a lot of alternatives, but chose "none of the above".
It's cases like these that make you want to believe in karma.
Tampering with Physical Evidence (corpse), Tex. Pen. Code sec. 37.09(c), would likely be my choice for best offense to charge. It is punished as a second degree felony.
Lee Hon, DA in Polk County, was instrumental in obtaining the passage of HB 872 (Otto) by the 80th Texas Legislature, a bill enhancing the punishment for the offense of Tampering With Evidence where the evidence tampered with was a human corpse. That bill was inspired by the 2003 murder of 4 year old Anthony Boone in Polk County.
Laura Hall was another infamous case that could have used such an enhanced punishment range. For a thread on her case, click here.
CAVEAT: I didn't see the trial info--only the follow up interviews and so I don't know what all evidence was out there...but what (more) evidence was there that defendant tampered with the corpse than that she committed the murder? Was the smell in her car and the lies the only ties to her? If so, the tampering wouldn't be any stronger than murder. If she moved the body, she knew it was there somehow. Killing her baby freed her up to party, but moving the baby after dead benefited her how? If she died accidentally, why duct tape? I think the evidence is as strong of murder as it is of lesser offenses, and if your jury is going to make the leap with you on circumstantial, might as well go for the offense that you really believe she committed.
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