(This is the archived copy of the article that was published on on July 5, 2011 on the new defunct HeadDrama website)
Three years ago a little girl disappeared. Her face made headlines for months as did that of her mother, Casey Anthony, who was eventually arrested and charged in the disappearance. We all hoped and prayed that Caylee Anthony would turn up safe even as the possibility seemed so unlkely. When the body of little Caylee was found not far from her home, there were still so many questions. Over the years, the answers have been hard to come by. Then came the trial and we hoped that we’d finally know what happened to Caylee, but that didn’t happen either.
For those looking for closure, the trial didn’t deliver. Casey Anthony didn’t take the stand. The attorneys presented evidence and arguments that were often confusing and covoluted. And the jury returned a verdict that just didn’t make sense to the many who’d already convicted Casey Anthony in their minds. After all, a mother who doesn’t report her missing daughter for more than a month has to be guilty of something awful because her actions were just unfathomable. There is something sick about a mother who parties and gets a tattoo while her child is missing. If the trial proved anything, it was that something is very wrong with Casey Anthony.
But back to the verdict, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty on the charges of murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. The only crime Casey Anthony was convicted of was providing false information to law enforcement. This verdict shocked many – ‘many’ being a gross understatement. The instant the verdict was read, social media was ablaze with commentary. It was hard to find anyone siding with Casey Anthony. Even after the verdict came down, we kept watching the coverage as if hoping there’d been some terrible mistake. We felt robbed of our closure.
A few hours after the verdict, the Anthony family released a statement through their attorney. It said, in part, “While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life. They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.”
The Search For Answers
As the Anthony family begins its rebuilding, we’re still left bewildered by it all. But why do people who have nothing to do with this case feel so invested in – and emotionally charged by – its outcome? Human Behavior Expert Patrick Wanis, Ph.D., explained it like this, “In the same way that people identify with characters in a movie, the emotional connection and attachment is caused by the way people have identified with the meaning, storyline, moral and characters in this bizarre case. Women who have made many sacrifices in their life to be a loving, devoted mother, particularly single parent mothers, feel anger and rage seeing a woman who they believe was a cold, selfish mother and murderer who was only interested in her own pleasure and satisfaction. Simply put, this case triggered the deep and sensitive emotional nerve of mothers. Women expect mothers to be extremely devoted and to suffer for their children.”
Wanis added that, “There might also be an element of displaced and transferred anger. People are very angry about a lot of things happening today in society & the world, and with a sense of powerlessness comes anger, rage and even revenge; some people may have sought out a guilty verdict as a way of feeling justice about so many wrongs in today’s world.”
But what of the need for the clichéd “closure”? Why do people who have nothing to do with the case seek it? Why were we so disappointed that Casey, herself, didn’t take the stand? Wanis provided this perspective, “Closure occurs when we know and understand everything that happened and why it happened. People wanted to see and hear Casey explain herself, her actions and motivations. People had expectations based on their own beliefs that she is guilty. They wanted her to reveal how Caylee died and why Casey murdered her; they wanted the details – all of the gory details. They also yearned with extreme anticipation to hear her lies and hoped that she might speak the truth and then express remorse and ask for forgiveness. Ultimately people feel cheated out of closure because they didn’t get to hear what they believe is the whole story.”
From This Moment
It’ll be difficult to “let go” of the case and move on without answers. Over the next few years there will undoubtedly be multiple books and filmed dramatizations, and while they’ll never give the ultimate answers, at least we may get some small slivers of inisght along the way. We’ll see Casey Anthony repeatedly in-and-out of the news, and much like other celebrites that people have believed to ‘get away with murder” we’ll occasionally lose focus of the tragic, young life lost, to the latest “Look what Casey is doing now!” headline.
Today’s verdict reading is a peculiar moment in time. It’s an emotional plateau upon where we can see with clarity everything that has transpired in this case so far, and can visualize the media spectacle that has yet to unfold. We have no choice but to accept it – despite all the new explanations and theories – this story will never have a clear conclusion.