Casey Anthony’s Prosecutor Tells All
By Alison Parker
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
The Casey Anthony trial was a media frenzy and has continued to be a subject of fascination even after the delivery of the verdict. One of prosecutors at Anthony’s trial, Jeff Ashton, recently published a book about the trial, called Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony. The book discusses certain evidence that did not get into court, Casey’s different versions of what happened to her daughter, and even goes as far as to call the defense team “liars.” In an Orlando Sentinel article, Ashton told reporters that he thought that “most attorneys would find many of the things [he talked about] in the book to be ethically objectionable” and suggested that it may be subject to ethics probes in the future. While I haven’t read the book, this statement got me curious. Why would an attorney knowingly do something that he felt would subject him to an ethics probe?
As far as the ethical issues with his book are concerned, I learned from Professional Responsibility class that it is considered unethical for an attorney to accept a percentage of royalties from a book about the subject of the attorney’s representation in lieu of fees. But this rule clearly doesn’t apply to Ashton for many reasons. For one, Casey Anthony wasn’t Ashton’s client.
Without having read the book, it’s difficult to assess what would be ethically objectionable but whether the book is unethical or not, I do feel it is in poor taste to blatantly criticize your opponent in a for-profit publication the way that Ashton did. “I genuinely dislike Jose Baez,” Ashton said to the Orlando Sentinel. He also called Baez “smarmy” and a “consummate salesman” with “unearned arrogance.” In the book he says something to the effect that he thought Casey Anthony was a liar and that in many ways her counsel began to mirror her. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct provides that a lawyer shall zealously represent his or her client within the bounds of the law. It is arguable that Baez zealously represented Anthony, presenting all the evidence that was in her favor and casting doubt on the prosecution’s evidence showing that it wasn’t sufficient to convict her–it would appear as though Ashton is criticizing Baez for doing his job. Accusing Baez and the defense team of being liars essentially accuses them of committing a fraud on the court–which is not only unethical, but unlawful as well.
Judging from a few of the criticisms of the trial that I have heard, people felt as though the prosecution didn’t adequately do its job. It seems to me that Ashton probably felt the heat from the negative reactions of his community and perhaps he felt compelled to write a novel telling his side of the story. Although, it seems to me that a story about the trial may do nothing more than further inflame the issue.