Retired state prosecutor Jeff Ashton doesn’t pull any punches five months after Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a Pinellas County jury.
“Casey Anthony is the single greatest liar to have ever lived,” Ashton told a packed room Wednesday evening at the Gelbart Auditorium in Selby Library. “… Can any of you remember the lie three months later? No. She could remember every single detail of that lie.”
His thoughts on Casey's father George Anthony? The opposite.
“He is a lousy liar. George stinks as a liar,” Ashton said. “He’s one of the worst liars ever. Cross-examining him is like taking candy from a baby.”
Anthony was acquitted of murder charges and numerous other lesser charges the jury could have found her guilty for the death of her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony.
The verdict was read July 5 and after the sentencing, Ashton, a St. Petersburg native, retired. Five months later, Ashton is on the road promoting his book“Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony,” written with Lisa Pulitzer.
Ashton gave brief comments before taking questions for nearly an hour. The night was filled with deep analysis, filled with laughter at times, sometimes Ashton would joke about his own misgivings.
But the last question of the evening asked by a young girl produced one of the most chilling responses. She asked, “If Casey did kill Caylee, do you think she regrets it?”
“I would imagine at some place, in Casey, there is a potential for feeling bad about it,” he said. “But I think she’s probably convinced herself in some way — I really believe when she decided to kill Caylee that she convinced herself that it was the best thing for Caylee.”
He added that the reasoning behind it was how Caylee became so good at lying, she could convince herself of her own lies.
“I hope it haunts her dreams,” he said.
“The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that she will continue to lie,” he said earlier in the program. “Someday she may lie to someone who doesn’t resort to the law for their justice, but who knows what will happen with that.”
Ashton also slammed defense attorney Jose Baez, whom the Florida Bar Association is investigating for his actions during the trial of not following court orders and for turning his back to the judge during sidebar.
“He can pretend to be Johnny Cochran if he wants. We call him Johnny Cockroach,” he said, before laughing. “Did I say that? That used to be a private joke.”
However, Ashton isn’t confident that the Florida Bar Association is fully investigating the matter.
“Unfortunately our Bar isn’t as good for enforcing lawyers for things other than stealing things from clients — as horrible as that is,” he said. “I think that people like that give people a bad impression of lawyers.”
One thing Ashton said he would like changed is having the state allow to turn in everything they have for the defense’s inspection, and have those documents open to public inspection before the trial if a case would get a lot of publicity.
“I’m not suggesting we hamper the Freedom of the Press,” he said. “The press is doing what we want to do. We want them to give us information 24 hours a day.”
He acknowledges one of the unfortunate consequences of the case if that were to happen — “For the next Caylee to get justice, you may have to not know that she doesn’t exist. It’s sad, but true.”
Ironically, he said the one thing that wasn’t in front of the public view but was shown to the jury would garner a big reaction. But that photo of Caylee’s decomposed skull with the duct tape on it was a non-starter.
“None. I remember looking at them for a reaction and seeing just nothing and thinking, ‘Wow, some people just don’t show their emotions,’” he said.
Marilyn Muesli Himmelsbach of Sarasota said she read more than 20,000 pages of documents on this trial over the last three years. She writes for the blogHumble Opinion about the case and other cases of murdered and missing children.
She feels Judge Belvin Perry let the public down.
“I believe we thought initially that Judge Perry was going to be a superior judge and we felt we were left down by him because he allowed Baez so many judicial errors,” the Boston transplant said.
Sharon Sanders of Sarasota added she thinks the jury selection processes needs to change.
“I felt that lawyers in that did the best they could, but I think the judicial system has to change,” the Pittsburgh snowbird said. “I wasn’t very happy with the ending of this trial.”
The real purpose everyone comes out to these events is for the concern for justice for Caylee, Ashton said, and added he hopes that despite the case, people still believe in the criminal justice system.
“We have a very, very good system. It’s one of the best in the world,” he said. “It doesn’t always work the way it should. It doesn’t always work right. Anytime you have human beings involved it’s going to go a little haywire.”