Found not guilty of murdering her daughter Caylee, Casey Anthony now serves out a year’s probation on an unrelated charge in Florida. But an Anthony prosecutor who remains convinced of her guilt says in a perfect world, Anthony’s real sentence will be fading into obscurity.
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Speaking with Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday, retired prosecutor Jeff Ashton said his wish is for the public to turn a blind eye to the woman front in center in what was called “The Trial of the Century.”
“You know, there’s justice in the court, and then there’s a larger sense of justice,” Ashton told Lauer. “I would hope that people leave Casey Anthony alone; I don’t want anyone to do anything to Casey or to have anything to do with her.
“My advice to people who are angry about (her acquittal) is to ignore Casey, and I hope that’s what they do. I hope that someday — and I know this probably won’t happen — that Casey Anthony will invoke a “who’s that?’"Story: The man who tried to convict Casey Anthony tells his story
The former Florida assistant state attorney Ashton talked to Lauer about his new book “Imperfect Justice,” out in bookstores today, in which he gives a prosecutor’s perspective on the case, and minces no words in blasting Anthony and her defense team. In the book, he calls the defense’s trial arguments “a complete crock of crap” and said he believes Anthony blatantly lied in telling psychiatrists that her father George had molested her and that he had killed Caylee by drowning her.
Anthony was found not guilty of murder, aggravated child abuse and manslaughter July 5 at the close of a sensational, six-week trial that saw more than 100 witnesses — but never Anthony herself — take the stand. The verdict came some 1,085 days after Casey’s mother Cindy called 911 to report her nearly 3-year-old granddaughter Caylee missing in July 2008.
While jurors, who deliberated just 11 hours before returning the not guilty verdict, have said the prosecution failed to build a compelling case on exactly how Caylee Anthony died, Ashton told TODAY he believes he and his fellow prosecutors “excluded everything but homicide.”Video: 'Ignore Casey Anthony,' urges ex-prosecutor (on this page)
“We couldn’t provide the jury with clear evidence on a silver platter of exactly how Caylee died,” he said. “Really, the burden of proof on the state isn’t necessarily to prove exactly how the homicide was committed but simply that it was committed.”
Ashton said he would have relished having Anthony take the stand and having the opportunity to ask her about the “Bella Vita” tattoo she had inked on her shoulder only weeks after she said Caylee had gone missing. “Bella Vita” means “beautiful life” in Italian.
“I think if I only had one (question), it would be, ‘What does Bella Vita mean to you?’ “Ashton said. “One of the great issues that was never explained and to me, (and) was the clearest expression of the reason for the murder, was the tattoo.
“You know, your daughter is missing or dead for three weeks and you get a tattoo that says Bella Vita? I would love to hear the explanation for that.”Story: Retired prosecutor calls Casey Anthony attorney 'smarmy'
In his 322-page book, Ashton writes that late in the trial, Anthony’s attorneys approached the prosecution about a plea deal, and they, believing the jury would not convict Anthony on a death penalty, offered two options: A second degree murder plea without allocution into how Caylee actually died, or a possible manslaughter charge with Anthony fully coming clean on what she knew. While her lawyers approached Anthony about pleading guilty to a lesser charge, she refused to even listen to a deal.
In his interview with Lauer, Ashton said he has largely come to terms with the not guilty verdict, even while he remains convinced of Anthony’s guilt. He conceded that “there (are) some small things…that I wish we had done differently,” but “the jury decided that there was reasonable doubt. Obviously, I don’t agree, but that was their decision.”Story: Anthony jurors lay low after names released
In his book, Ashton directs most of his vitriol toward Anthony’s defense team, calling Anthony a liar and saying “in many ways, I think the defense came to mirror the client they represented.”
Of Anthony’s attorney Jose Baez, Ashton writes, “There is an unearned air of arrogance about the man that is incredibly frustrating to witness. The word I used in describing Jose is smarmy; somebody who is slick, underhanded and doesn’t shoot straight.”
He also writes he hoped attorney Cheney Mason being later added to Anthony’s defense team “would class up the defense team tactics,” but instead, “Baez seemed to bring Cheney down to his (level).”
In a statement published by the London Daily Mail, Baez responded to Ashton’s characterization of him, saying, “I am both surprised and somewhat disappointed he has chosen to attack me on a personal level.”
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