I’m not a big proponent of the death penalty. By and large I see it as a tool to perpetuate racism in this country. A sort of Blacks Beware alert to keep them from messing with the white folks. If you want to know if racism exists in this country, spend a day at your local jailhouse.
But our court system doesn’t only promote racism — it perpetuates sexism as well.
I thought of that this morning as I heard the announcement that the DA is going to seek the death penalty against Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her daughter.
We don’t like to think that women do these sorts of things. Especially if they happen to be pretty.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years looking at this very matter and writing about it. I asked a DA why he didn’t charge a certain mother in the death of her child when she was clearly negligent if not outright culpable.
Was it because she’s attractive? I asked.
No, he insisted. It’s because there was nothing to be gained. The mother had suffered enough.
That’s a pretty standard stereotype that we continue to lie to ourselves about. That all mothers are like the mothers in the nursery rhymes. Good woman who put their child’s welfare before their own. Thankfully, there are a lot of mothers like that.
Sadly, there are plenty who are prone to their own selfish pursuits, even when such endeavors place their children in harm’s way. Suffering for them means having to watch another Disney flick instead of having a girls night out at the local bar.
There was a time when such women would have been vilified by society. But in the shadows of our headstrong pursuit of equality for all (except the children) lurks a darker side of us — a side that allows women can be as slutty as their male counterparts.
And as manipulative.
And as murderous.
We just don’t like to admit to that yet.
Our courts and society are still operating under the 1950s notion of motherhood.
Which, frankly, my dear, doesn’t exist anymore.
I am not surprised that Melissa Huckaby, the Sunday School teacher, reportedly sexually assaulted 8-year-old Sandra Cantu before she reportedly murdered her.
I am not surprised because I worked as a cop reporter for 10 years. One of the worst things I ever came across was a sexual assault case involving a mother. I was in court the day a judge allowed a defendant a plea deal on a sexual assualt case involving an 8-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. The defendant basically walked on a case that should have put him behind bars for 20 years. I was outraged.
When I questioned the Deputy DA about why this was allowed, he invited me into his office where he showed me photos. Photos taken by the children’s mother. Photos of the defendant having sexual intercourse with her daughter. Photos of the 8-year-old boy performing oral sex on the defendant.
Dozens and dozens of up close and personal shots.
I was stunned.
But that was nearly 15 years ago.
That Deputy DA quit lawyering as a result of that case.
The case came before the court only weeks before Mothers Day. I prayed desperately that God would erase the images I saw that day. There are times when a failing memory is a blessing.
Here’s the deal. They settled the case because nobody in that courtroom wanted to put those children on the stand to testify against their mother.
Turns out that the detective investigating the case ended up marrying the mother. Truth is stranger than fiction. The children were removed from her care. The detective and the mother moved east, had children of their own. The defendant who had gotten out of jail just days before those photos were taken had been corresponding with the mother. A prison pen pal. He told the children & their mother he was a nudist. Or so the story began…
Last year I was knee-deep in writing about another murder. This one of a 3-year old whose mother was very much like Casey Anthony. More interested in partying than in being the mother her daughter needed.
Here’s the ugly truth folks. On the average four children a day are murdered in America. The bulk of children being abused are ages 3 and under. That’s done for a purpose. They can’t or won’t readily identify their abusers. Our courts systems are full of DAs who are all too willing to blame fathers, even when they aren’t guilty, and all too reticent to prosecute a mother, even when she’s been clearly negligent or otherwise complicit, or even when she’s the sole guilty party. Investigators will finger everyone BUT the mother.
I applaud the DA for seeking the death penalty against Casey Anthony.
I don’t think he stands a snowball chance in hell of getting it but I admire his willingness to pursue it.