The Casey Anthony trial, from start to finish, has produced a lot of emotion across this country. This week, after the verdict came in and this morning after listening to the sentencing I started playing "Devil's Advocate" in my head. Since only people who live under very large rocks are unaware of the details of trial I will spare you a recap. Instead I want to summarize some thoughts I had this week about it all.
For those who immediately condemned the jurors to "hell fire", I understand your emotion, but I also hope you are never put in the position to judge such a horrible case. Can you imagine? No one wins, no matter the verdict. We, the public, were inundated with "evidence" via television, magazine and internet reports that the jury was not exposed to. Jurors took what was presented to them by the prosecution and defense and had to follow the rules. Based on what was presented to them they did not have enough evidence to convict Casey Anthony.
I will be completely honest. I believe that Casey Anthony is guilty as sin so this post is not to discount that this young woman is deeply troubled and responsible for the death of her daughter, in my opinion. But,while I was playing Devil's Advocate, mainly in regards to the jurors, I thought for a moment. . . so what if, against all odds, evidence and common sense, Casey wasn't responsible for Caylee's death? What if? Just the simlple fact that she let 31 days pass before reporting Caylee missing baffles me. So even if she truly wasn't the cause of death, she couldn't possibly have loved Caylee. She did nothing to protect her daughter or preserve her life, so even if she wasn't the cause, she let it happen and ultimately is guilty either way. Yes, I am being judgmental, but here's why:
My mind wandered back to a day in October 2010 when I took my nephew to Deanna Rose Farmstead in Overland Park, KS. He loves riding the ponies and feeding the goats and running down the paths, just far enough in front of me to feel free, but close enough for me to only have to pick up a little speed to catch up with him before he jumps into a pond. My instinct is to keep him by my side at all times, to control his every move, to make him hold my hand and to "stalk" him when he plays on the playground equipment. I know, though, that he has to learn to listen and that I have to let go just a little so as not to overwhelm him. He has to learn about dangers, he has to fall to learn how to get back up, and he should have the freedom to go down a slide, jump off and run back to the ladder to go down again without me following him.
The slide my nephew loves to play on the comes out of the side of a small barn and the chute itself is enclosed. This set up is difficult for me. Children enter the barn through one of two entrances (on either side of the barn), and have the option of viewing sheep or goats in little pens before climbing up a staircase (also enclosed), crossing a little wooden bridge and then choosing one of two (enclosed) chutes to slide down. Just typing this makes me anxious!
While other parents were sitting on benches talking or tending to their other children, I was standing, positioned to be able to see my nephew exit the slide, run to the barn entrance and time his next descent through the chute. He was having fun, squealing with delight as he made his rounds, always choosing the same side of the barn to re-enter the slide. Then, I saw him come down the slide, hop off, take his normal route back to the barn but then dart the other direction, to the opposite entrance. I followed him. I entered the barn to make sure he made it to the staircase and thought to myself that I was being ridiculous. Once I entered the barn I didn't see him. That's okay, I told myself. He's quick. He's probably already up the stairs. I quickly observed the other children in the barn, climbing the stairs and went back out to greet him at the end of the slide. A few kids came down, no nephew. The children I saw climbing the stairs, presumably after Nephew had climbed them came down the slide. And that, my friends, is when I panicked. He was missing.
In less than half a second I had memorized the position and identifying characteristics of every adult in the area and they all became suspects. I scanned the perimeter and then made my way into the barn. I checked the pens. Animals. No nephew. I gently pushed my way past children and climbed the tiny staircase, crawled across the wooden bridge, yelling all the while "NEPHEW!" I didn't care who heard or that I sounded completely panicked. I looked down each slide, no nephew. I raced back down the stairs and circled the barn, checking bushes, trees, strollers, running over to every blonde haired toddler in the area, especially those closest to a man, screaming my nephew's name. I really believed he was right in front of my face and I would see him and feel stupid for freaking out. One minute passed.
I clearly remember standing in the middle of the play area, surrounded by other adults who didn't even ask if they could help me thinking of what to do next. Police. Then, I panicked because I didn't want to leave the area even to notify security. He was somewhere near, I knew it, and if I left the area he might come out and see that I wasn't there and run off. I couldn't win.
It's amazing how much happens in seconds or even under 5 minutes. Describing the events creates a long blog post, but it happened very quickly. I finally resolved to do one more scan and yell. In my head, I prayed, Give him back to me. Wherever he is, just place him back here, anywhere. Please give him back to me. That's all I could think to say. That's all I could mutter without throwing up because the other thought going through my head was, "If I have to leave this place without him. If he is gone. Gone. I will not be able to live with myself. I will drive my car off of a bridge--there's no forgiveness for this."
And that is how I know Casey Anthony did not love her child. I, who am not even a mother, was so immediately devastated that I could not find my nephew that I sacrificed my pride to locate him. I was ready to sacrifice my life for him. I felt like searching for 2 minutes wasted too much time, and Casey let 31 days pass before admitting that Caylee had been missing. I just can't imagine. It's difficult for me not to judge. More than just feeling correct and judgmental, I just ache for Caylee. My nieces and nephews, my own future hypothetical children, will always know that my life comes second to their well-being. That's something that little girl didn't have.
Guess where I found my nephew? I passed by the barn one last time, on my way to notify security, and felt very strongly to go back in. I did. I cried, "AXTON!" and then turned, defeated, turned to involve others in the search. Suddenly, I heard a muffled, "Aunt Jessica?" I think I physcially flew over to and up the stairs. I remember pushing a grown man to the side. My nephew was on the little wooden bridge, playing. I cried, "Get over HERE!" a little meaner than I had intended and he started to cry a little. "Am I in trouble?" I met him halfway, sitting on the tiny bridge, obstructing other children from getting to the slide and hugged him so hard and for so long that I probably cut off some of his oxygen.
I have no idea where that kid was, even now. I checked everywhere. My nephew is not quiet; when he plays he screams and giggles, and I never heard him once during the search. When his name is called, he always comes or responds, but not that day. I asked him later, in the car, "Did you hear Aunt Jessica call you?" "Ummm....nope. I was just playing." "Did you play in the barn the whole time?" "Yep. I played in the barn...and went down the sliiiiiiide and saw the goats, and ....." Impossible.
I'm so thankful for my nephew, for maternal instincts, for prayer and for what I consider a miracle. I believe God picked that kid up from wherever he wandered off to and placed him on that bridge. I know God guided my thoughts and actions and kept me aware.
I hope that Casey Anthony seeks forgiveness. Only God can change a heart and right now, I think only God is capable of forgiving her. I'm sure having a hard time even thinking about it.