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Sometimes, truth is a lot stranger than fiction. Do you remember where you were at 10 AM on October 3, 1995? I remember riding around with a co-worker awaiting the verdict of what was hailed as the “trial of the century”-the O.J. Simpson double-homicide murder trial. Had one been orbiting the planet when OJ was declared “not guilty,” I am quite sure he would have seen the earth tremble a bit.
In spite of what seemed like obvious motive and plenty of culpable evidence – ultimately, OJ was acquitted of any criminality in the death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, an aspiring model who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. [As an aside, justice caught up to OJ Simpson in December 2008 when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for armed robbery when he attempted to “reclaim” sports memorabilia at gunpoint.]
Jeff Ashton, who served as lead prosecutor against another famous murder suspect-Casey Anthony-has written a no-holds-barred account of the trial that shocked Florida in Imperfect Justice. In 2008, Casey Anthony was charged with the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. Although she had reported Caylee missing, Casey’s lies and malfeasance depicted her as a mother who had grown tired of the responsibilities of raising a child. Instead, it appeared as if Casey Anthony wanted to be the consummate party girl…even emblazoning a tattoo on her back indicating “Bella Vita” (meaning “Beautiful Life”) that she got weeks after Caylee died.
Ashton shares the prosecution’s case in what should have been a slam-dunk conviction against Casey. In just under 24 hours of deliberation, however, the jury acquitted Casey of any criminal involvement in her daughter’s death. The shock and outrage felt by the public was the fodder of all the news agencies covering the case. As Casey Anthony was whisked away under cover of darkness to a new life, there seemed to be very little justice for Caylee. Maybe the earth trembled once again as the verdict was announced in July 2011.
Imperfect Justice reminds the reader, in spite of not getting a guilty verdict, the greatest injustice was that a child was killed and discarded like common garbage. Ashton shares the journey made by investigators into the tremendous amounts of lies Casey told; the changing nature of Casey’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony, and the problems their inconsistencies caused the prosecution; and his dissatisfaction of Jose Baez, lead defense attorney for Casey Anthony. A full color-spread in the middle of the book includes pictures of Casey partying, the car that smelled of death, and various shots of the Anthony’s home.
Since Ashton postponed retirement for six months to finish this case, you have to put up with a little grandstanding and self-aggrandizement. Apparently, Ashton was one of the first attorneys to be involved with DNA forensics; and he styles himself as the quintessential science nerd. In spite of a little peacock press, after reading the details of the prosecution you will be shocked that Casey Anthony was found not guilty.
Rest in peace, Caylee Anthony, perhaps some day the balance of justice will ultimately vindicate your untimely death.
Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd