On July 5, 2011, one of the most watched criminal cases of the decade came to a close. Casey Anthony has been acquitted of first-degree murder. The amount of publicity the case has seen has caused the jury to be sequestered for the last seven weeks without contact with any family or friends. They reached their decision after only 11 hours of deliberation. Anthony was found guilty of only four misdemeanor counts of providing law enforcement with false information. Good behavior, combined with time already served, has Casey set to be released on July 17, a little more than three years after her daughter was first reported missing.
The Anthony case has had everything, from lies and deceit, to aberrant behavior from Casey herself. One thing known for sure is that it took Casey nearly 31 days from the time her daughter Caylee was last seen alive to report her missing. Casey stifled questions of Caylee’s whereabouts with tales of vacations and a nanny turned kidnapper. Casey’s attorney blamed her web of lies on a history of sexual abuse from her father, saying she had grown accustomed to dishonesty.
According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the single-parent family is the fastest-growing family form in America. The proportion of female-headed families in the U.S. has doubled since 1960, and growing at a rate two and a half times as fast as that of husband-wife families. Along with this growth has come an awareness that single mothers, as well as their children, experience a considerable amount of psychological distress, with epidemiological surveys indicating that these women have higher rates of anxiety and depression than any other marital-status group. With all the fittings of a Hollywood blockbuster, national notoriety is almost a given, but with Weber State University’s large proportion of nontraditional students, many of whom are parents, the Casey Anthony court case has gained an audience at WSU.
Some students show their support by joining Facebook groups such as “Porch Lights on for Caylee Marie Anthony” and reposting prayer statuses in her memory.
“I know some people don’t take Facebook seriously, but it’s the future,” said WSU sophomore Katie Farber. “We live in a digital world. When I first saw the event, I was really glad. It’s been good to know that other people are affected by her (Caylee’s) death like I have been. It’s such a harsh blow from reality to know that a mother could even possibly do something like this to her child, and it helps me to know that other people are bothered by that thought too.”
There have been many speculations as to whether or not Caylee has received justice in the acquittal of her mother. Many have said they are angered and shocked by the news.
“I was honestly pretty ticked when I heard the verdict,” WSU student Hannah Koller said. “She waited 31 days to report her child missing. There has to be something wrong with that.”
There have been many guesses as to what Anthony’s motive might have been, one being that perhaps she was drawn into the temptations of a party lifestyle. Casey spent the month before reporting her daughter missing casually renting movies with her then boyfriend, and even going as far as entering a “hot body” competition and getting a new tattoo. The words “Bella Vita” were inked permanently into her skin just days after her daughter was last seen alive. Some consider the possibility of parenting simply being too much for a young Anthony.
Nontraditional WSU students Karen and Deanna Lougy are helping to raise a child. When asked how they would respond to a similar situation, Deanna said, “I can’t even imagine that. We’ve never been in a place where we didn’t know where our child was, but partying wouldn’t be on our minds. I can’t even think that parenting would be too much either. I mean, it gets pretty stressful. We have work, homework, and then have to babysit after. But it wouldn’t be enough to make me want to kill someone.”
In the end, it seems as though Casey is also considered of little consequence by some people.
“The real tragedy here is not a possibly mistaken verdict, but the fact that a beautiful little girl’s life has been extinguished in its prime,” Farber said. “It’s important for me personally to focus more on Caylee and less on Casey.”