Posts Tagged ‘Caylee Anthony’

“Wow.” Prosecutor Jeff Ashton mouthed the word of disbelief as the jury handed down its verdict in the Casey Anthony case last summer. He wasn’t alone at being stunned at hearing “not guilty” on the three felony counts.

I know I was among the many Orlando residents who had followed the case for three years who were left shaking their heads. Maybe Casey Anthony wasn’t guilty of first-degree murder of her toddler daughter Caylee, but surely she was responsible for Caylee’s death? But the jury didn’t connect the dots the way we had. Did we just think we knew more?

I’m still asking myself that after reading Ashton’s new book, Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, written with Lisa Pulitzer. It’s a detailed account of the case against Casey from the insider’s point of view, and Ashton’s preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned. Reading it all together  in black-and-white — the initial 911 calls and conversations with law enforcement, the transcripts of jail house meetings and calls, the depositions, the expert testimony —  reinforces what I had heard previously.

What was new are Ashton’s opinions, although he telegraphed his distaste for defense attorney Jose Baez throughout the trial. So, it’s not surprising to see Baez described as “smarmy” and compared to a character in My Fair Lady, “oozing charm from every pore / he oiled his way across the floor.”  Casey’s mother Cindy Anthony comes across as the queen of denial in “a lethally toxic codependent relationship” with her daughter. Father George, whom Casey accused of sexually molesting her and of drowning Caylee in the family pool, appears to be a decent enough guy bewildered by tragedy.

As for Casey herself, she is an accomplished, habitual, fluent liar. She was constantly, boldly reinventing her story as circumstances forced her hand, one lie leading to another and another. Every now and then she would reach “the end of the hall” — as she did when she took investigators to her nonexistent workplace at Universal Studios — and was forced to admit something wasn’t true, but more lies would inevitably follow.

The jury found reasonable doubt with the prosecution’s case. The duct tape didn’t work for them as the smoking gun.

Ashton writes: “Part of interpreting a crime scene is eliminating things that don’t make sense. You hope to convince jurors to use their common sense as well. So is there any reason someone would put duct tape over the nose and mouth of a dead child? … People don’t make accidents look like murder unless they are covering something up.”

Still, he didn’t buy duct tape on Caylee’s nose and mouth as some sort of cover-up. The only reason that made sense to him was that it was placed there to keep her from breathing — “premeditation, plain and simple.”

But very little is plain and simple about the Casey Anthony case except that a beautiful little girl died in unknown circumstances. We may speculate that it was murder or an accident, but we’ll never know. Casey Anthony is a convicted liar, and any scenario she outlines and/or details will always be suspect.

Open Book: I’m still conflicted that I watched the Casey Anthony trial, the biggest reality show in town. Maybe because it was local, because I knew many of the print and broadcast reporters covering the trial, because the judge shops at my Publix, because George Anthony was a security guard at the Sentinel when I worked there. Maybe it’s because I’m still a newsie. The publisher sent me a copy of Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton (William Morrow). Now I don’t want to hear or read anymore about this sad story. I think.

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One of my friends calls it “the best reality show going on.” Another says, “There’s too much sadness in the world already.” Both are talking about the trial of Casey Anthony for the murder of her two-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony three years ago this month.

The Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando has become a tourist destination and media circus. The police broke up a brawl before dawn yesterday among those waiting in line — some overnight — for the 50 courtroom seats designated for the public.

I have avoided downtown the last few weeks, but there’s no escape. Local television stations are providing gavel-to-gavel coverage and instant analysis on air and on their web sites; reporters tweet from the courtroom while cable anchors offer updates at least every 30 minutes. NBC’s “Dateline” aired special coverage last night, and ABC’s “The View” weighs in next week. You can’t go shopping or to the post office or out to lunch without hearing ordinary folks debating the fine points of forensics or the day’s testimony. And everybody, it seems, has an opinion about “tot mom” Casey Anthony’s guilt or innocence, all of course, in the interest of “justice for Caylee.”

It’s appalling and fascinating and mind-numbing all at the same time. And I was feeling cynical about the whole lurid mess until I read a beautiful and haunting first novel about a missing persons case in North Carolina, You Believers by Jane Bradley.

I hadn’t planned on reading it because I figured it would be a downer, and I’m in a summer brain-candy mood most days. But I was immediately pulled in by the voice of Shelby Walters, a Tennessee mountain native relocated to Wilmington, N.C., where she runs a volunteer rescue service.

“I’d say my calling is saving lives, lives of the missing and the lives of those who get left behind,” Shelby tells readers. “I’ve led those gatherings of searchers through fields, armed against the snakes that wait in weeds, the alligators lurking in marshes, where somewhere in miles of fields and woods and rivers and lakes a body can be found.”

I’d have been happy to hear Shelby, so passionate and persistent, narrate the entire book, but Bradley artfully intersperses her version of the search for pretty bartender Katy with chapters told from the perspective of others involved. There’s Katy’s mother, Livy, who leaves her Lookout Mountain home and puts her life on hold to look for her daughter; Billy, Katy’s fiance who knows he is Katy’s “safe” choice; and even Katy herself, near book’s beginning, at the shopping center in her blue pick-up. Two young men also play pivotal roles: hapless Mike, a born follower who wishes he was the boy his granny believed he was “instead of the man he’d come to be,” and cruel charmer Jesse, who sometimes feels as if he has hell pent up inside him. “They told him love could save him, but they had lied.”

Love, lies, grief, fear, guilt, grace. Shelby muses on the sorrowful trails she follows, wondering if there is evil in the shadows, or is it just random violence? And how then do you make peace with a world that can lose a Katy? Or any living soul? She’ll keep searching for answers — and the missing.

Open Book: I downloaded the e-book version of Jane Bradley’s You Believers (Unbridled Press) to my nook. I’ve been following the Caylee Anthony story for three years, and I know several print and TV reporters covering the trial. I also remember George Anthony, Casey’s father, from when he worked as a security guard at the Orlando Sentinel some years ago.

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