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Harris proposes Texas criminal or family law changes after Anthony verdict

State Senator Chris Harris, R-Arlington, outraged by the results of the Casey Anthony murder trial, plans to introduce legislation in Texas that would penalize any parent or legal guardian who does not report a missing child in a timely manner. The Senator would propose to make such an offense a felony.

Harris, a former family law attorney himself, aims to prevent at least some of the problems seen in the Casey Anthony case. Currently, there is nothing in Texas criminal or family law requiring parents to report missing children to the authorities.

Although Casey Anthony was acquitted of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and aggravated child abuse in the 2008 death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, one of the problems in the case was that Ms. Anthony gave false information to investigators and even her family when Caylee initially disappeared. She has been convicted of four counts of providing false information to the police -- all misdemeanors in Florida.

Casey Anthony maintains her innocence, insisting that the Caylee died accidentally by drowning in the family pool. Unfortunately, more than a month had passed by the time the child was reported missing. A month later, Caylee's remains were found in the woods near her family's home.

The delay between Caylee's initial disappearance and the beginning of the investigation could have been critical if the girl had been in danger. Moreover, the delay may have allowed vital evidence to be destroyed, which could have hampered the criminal case.

Currently, under Texas law it is a misdemeanor for mandated reporters to fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect, but no law requires parents to notify authorities when a child is missing.

In light of the Casey Anthony trial, Senator Harris thinks changes to Texas's criminal and family law codes are necessary. He hopes that laws requiring responsible adults to report missing children in a timely fashion could prevent the Anthony scenario in Texas.

Source: Fox News, "Anthony case fires up Texas senator," Josh Hinkle, July 8, 2011

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