Another lesson from the Casey Anthony case ....

Last week, I wrote about mercy as being a lesson in the Casey Anthony case coverage. Here's another one that I'm pondering. Filicide. It's been around for centuries, it happens with alarming frequency in the United States today, and yet it is still one of those elephants in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Filicide? What's that?

Filicide is Susan Smith and Andrea Yates and Ellen Feinberg and Diane Downs. Filicide - maternal filicide -- is the name given to the particular kind of homicide where mothers kill their children. (Paternal filicide happens too, and more on that, later.)

You know about maternal filicide.

1. Meryl Streep won an Oscar for Sophie's Choice. What was that choice? Filicide.
2. Oprah Winfrey produced and starred in Beloved, based upon the novel by Toni Morrison, where the character Sethe killed her daughter Beloved to keep her from being a slave.
3. Medea (remember, Euripides?) killed her children all because Jason left her.
4. Lois (with Peter) killed son Stevie on an episode of TV's Family Guy.

In this country today, it's much more common that we like to recognize. Every community has had its newborn baby found dead in the dumpster or trash can, left there shortly after birth - and lots of those stories reveal a teen mom who tells authorities she didn't even know she was pregnant. Sure, you've read one of those.

What you need to know about maternal filicide is WHY.

Perhaps we'd all be better served if the reality that filicide exists weren't such a taboo subject. Because then maybe it would be easier for post partum depression sufferers to ask for help. Maybe teen moms might give their newborns to someone rather than dump them.

And, maybe the fixation and for some, obsession, about the Casey Anthony case in the media wouldn't outweigh every other news story in this country for the past year (except for hurricanes, according to Yahoo!).

For more on filicide, look for an upcoming series of posts (Friday's Legal Memo) studying the topic in detail and titled "Filicide is Different."

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Casino 1238600075 - April 1, 2009 8:35 AM
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Comments (11) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
AshleyP - March 16, 2009 4:59 PM

Well, as you well know Mr. Lenamon Susan Smith was not post partum depression just as Casey is not so no one will fall for that if that's your aim...but it seems your aim is simply to make money off the Casey Anthony case...Wow that is exactly what you are doing (as you well know) using Casey's name to bring people to your site to get public exposure = more money for you....

You better pull this one, geez you must be really greedy to do this make money off of Caylee
and I know you won't print this but believe me I and many others will... how stupid is that in your "backwards sorta way" - good t-shirt for you Mr. Lenamon... Poor Caylee you are using her too...

A Large Website Owner :)

AshleyP - March 16, 2009 6:17 PM

I knew reverse psychology would work in a "backwards sorta way" :)

Zan - March 16, 2009 6:32 PM

The idea that this blog is for making money is ludicrous, any intelligent person who can read can see that this blog is about opening discussion on institutionalized murder. Some enlightened people are against the death penalty for a variety of reasons. Mine is simple, too many people through modern technology have been found innocent. No man should die for the crimes of another. I would rather see non violent criminals do other sorts of community service and have the people in prison who need to be off the streets permanently, child predators, rapists, large scale thieves - like Bernie Madoff. Room could be made for people who need to serve life sentences. I live in California where death row is a prison built in the 1800's it dangerous for the guards and the prisoners, where some wait over 20 years to be put to death. Millions of dollars later what has been accomplished by putting them to death? Not a thing but the waste of funds that would be educating our young, it's a waste of money and if the wrong person, an innocent person dies - it diminishes each and everyone of us as Americans.

Denise - March 16, 2009 7:51 PM

You are giving post partum depression a BAD name! Casey Anthony did not suffer from post partum depression. Casey is selfish, self centered, a thief and a liar, a sociopath and a cold blooded murderer! I have seen nothing that even resembles p.p.d.
I questioned WHY you got involved in this case, it is becoming obvious.....noteriety and money! Casey has received blood money, her family has been compensated by the media...all ill gotten gain you are cashing in by using her name, anything you may gain from this case is blood money. You are cashing in on the murder of a sweet innocent child.
Go ahead use the p.p.d. defense it will be insulting to the intelligence of any juror! That baby was murdered so Casey could "live the good life".
Next time you give Casey a whisper in court tell her I hope she is enjoying "the good life".

Rebecca - March 17, 2009 7:19 AM

Mr. Lenamon,

I for one appreciate that you are a nationally-known trial lawyer who has taken the time to create this blog with a dedicated theme - discussion of the death penalty. There are not enough experts in this area, much less many other areas of the law, that are willing to carve out time from their schedules to undertake what is a time-consuming task.

So, first, thank you.

Second, I think that lots of discussion needs to be had on the death penalty. The results of organizations like the Innocence Project are staggering. (And speaking of Madoff in the earlier comment, thanks to him the IP will have less cash to pursue its worthy goals.)

Here's one example of the Death Penalty gone bad: the Kennedy Brewer case ( Through DNA testing, the Innocence Project was able to clear an innocent man of charges that he had killed a 3 year old child and then, only after he had served several years on Death Row.

So, second, having an intelligent and scholarly vehicle of discussion about the Death Penalty is important and deserving of our time and respect.

Third, about this money issue. Not only do I agree that there is no evidence that you are profiting from this blog in any way -- in fact, I'm sure that if you were to compare your hourly rate to the time it takes to maintain this blog, it's far from a profit center -- I think it's ludicrous to suggest that these entries you've posted on the Casey Anthony case are self-serving.

You're refusing to discuss the case itself.
You're responding to questions asked of you by I assume many people -- including Nancy Grace.
You're trying to point out the media coverage of the case offers an opportunity to shed light in shadows - something that I think people like The Innocence Project would welcome.

Thank you again for your efforts.


Finally, Ashley -- I looked you up. You've signed off as an owner of a website, and you posted comments here earlier on this blog promoting The Caylee Daily. I went and looked at that site. It's got lots of Google Ads - in various sizes - and even a button for donations. It's totally dedicated to the Casey Anthony case.

Ashley, I frankly don't get how you can criticize Terry Lenamon - and I suppose indirectly Nancy Grace - for his references to the Anthony case, of which he has a direct connection, when you've set up an obviously profit-centered website compiled solely of materials that you've compiled from other sites. Busted.

admin - March 17, 2009 7:25 AM

To AshleyP:

I reference the Casey Anthony case because I am often asked questions about the death penalty and Casey Anthony. I cannot answer questions about her case specifically, but I can use this blog to educate people and promote open discussion of the death penalty. I hope the readers will learn more about filicide in a later posting.

My readers may not be aware that almost 100% of my death penalty clients are indigent. A quick viewing of my cases in my attorney profile will attest to 15 years of defending indigent clients. And, as a large website owner, you probably have noticed that there are no advertisements on this site. Nor was I paid for any appearance on Nancy Grace or for national coverage on other cases.

Thank you for writing and giving me the opportunity to address this issue. The more people that become aware of the costs, economic and social, of the death penalty, the better. If every state and the federal government were to abolish the death penalty, I would happily defend other types of cases.

- Terry

americanjustice37 - March 22, 2009 7:53 AM

It should be noted that there are different classifications to Filicide, postpartum depression being only one.

admin - March 23, 2009 4:33 PM

To americanjustice37:

Good point. There is not a simple "one size fits all" answer to why some mothers kill their children. Postpartum depression is a hotly debated factor in this crime.

You may also be interested in a bill proposed in Texas to make postpartum depression a legal defense to filicide. A good discussion of this was posted today on Grits for Breakfast. See

- Terry

americanjustice37 - March 27, 2009 7:48 PM

I find it interesting that no one wishes to blog about facts or questions, yet they go other places to speak in bad words about everyone involved in this case. Oh well!

lawlady - April 3, 2009 10:57 AM

You might not be "paid" per se for your appearances or through ad revenue on your blog, but this is essentially a law firm website. It IS attorney advertising. By blogging about a nationally known case, your law firm gains nationwide attention that it would never have gotten otherwise.

I applaud you for defending indigent clients; everyone is entitled to a defense. But let's not be coy and pretend you had just "no idea" that by injecting yourself in a by now infamous criminal case you would get free national advertising. And, one does not obtain offices "located in the New World Tower, overlooking the Port of Miami and Biscayne Bay" by running a Legal Aid branch.

Don't get me wrong, I think the blogs and information here are great. But just because you don't have google ads generating advertising revenue doesn't make your website, or your firm, a non-profit.

finnperkins - May 18, 2009 8:12 PM

To Tracey-
Responding to your statement- “in the case of Casey, I honestly don't see how she could or would EVER add value to society"

I defer from your opinion. Casey brought into this world, a child who, by her own admission, she wanted to place up for adoption. Casey choose to save the life of this child, even though she didn't want to be a mother, So I would have to say that the Casey's choice, her value was Caylee Marie, I think that is valuable, it has intrinsic value, that will be with her spiritually forever.

I realize Tracy; you prefer not to place any consideration of mercy for Casey. I am not here to change your mind. Because there is only a margin of 0.01% in your mind left, per your assessment of 99.99% guilt.

So I address the later part to anyone who has had to make the choice between abortion and life. I know Tracy will just say that Cindy forced her in to keeping Caylee, but even her friends that are in disagreement with her now, state to FDLE that early on she had wanted to keep the baby, and offer her the chance to be adopted. This choice may be one of the few honorable choices she ever made. The key to finding mercy, an internal search must be done prior to passing judgment. After all the consideration of mercy, is the only part of the trial that is based upon conscience, not on case law.

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