Full disclosure: I hate CNN et al's obsession with missing kids, murdered mommies, shark attacks, other tear-jerking, fear-mongering stories that, while tragic, really seem more the purview of local news. I also find CNN host Nancy Grace unbearable, and not just for the high-minded reasons Jason scrupulously detailed a few years back. So I am predisposed to find anything that appears on her show about one of these subjects extremely objectionable. 

That said, Grace's latest on-air prosecution of Casey Anthony, the 23-year-old Florida woman accused of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, is out-of-bounds even by the snarling host's hang-'em-all standards. 

Via Radar online, Grace has obtained photographs of Casey Anthony dressed like a casino waitress (read: scantily) and running wild at a friend's 2006 Halloween party. There is beer-drinking, bumping-and-grinding, girl-on-girl kissing, and all other manner of tasteless misbehavior. Grace, stunned by what a lewd, hard-partying piece of trash these pics reveal Casey to be, asserts: "I don't know if a jury will ever see them, but I find them highly probative--in other words, they prove a lot about how the 'tot mom' felt about rearing her child--her child that is now dead!"

Now, I have no idea whether Casey Anthony is a piece of Florida white trash--or if she in fact killed her daughter. But I am pretty sure that a 20-year-old girl being caught on film doing tacky things while dressed in a tacky Halloween costume doesn't prove squat about much. A twenty-year-old girl is barely more than a kid herself (in this society, at least), and I'm not sure exactly what's "probative" about Casey's leaving her then 14-month-old toddler with a grandparent or babysitter and heading out to blow off a little steam on Halloween of all nights. For all we know, Casey had spent the entire day meticulously piecing together some complicated Tinkerbell costume for an afternoon trick-or-treat marathon with Caylee.    

As for the drunken misbehavior, let me just say that I've seen a number of Washington's finest young talents make total asses of themselves--in public--after a few too many. And by young, I mean late-20- and 30-somethings, not 20-year-olds. Furthermore, as someone who has worn my share of eye-raising Halloween getups over the years--I think I'm proudest of my Laura Kroft ensemble of Halloween '01--all I have to say about Grace's hyperventilation over Casey's casino waitress is: Get a grip. 

I can see where a habit of partying or whoring around--especially if she neglected Caylee in the process--might tell us something about whether Casey was a deeply resentful young mom who longed to have her daughter out of the picture. (Although, let's be clear that this country has plenty of too-young, resentful moms who would never dream of hurting their children.) But for Grace to pass any judgments based on these (admittedly racy) party pics is damn near as irresponseible as Bill Frist diagnosing poor Terri Schiavo via videotape. 

God save us from professional quackery mixed with moral outrage. 

--Michelle Cottle