Jeff Ashton was part of the prosecution team in the Florida homicide trial of Casey Anthony, the single mother accused of murdering her little girl, Caylee. The most sensational courtroom drama since the infamous O.J. Simpson affair, the Casey Anthony trial had people coast-to-coast riveted. In his stunning true crime masterwork, Imperfect Justice, Ashton gives a fascinating and impassioned insider’s account of the investigation, the trial, and the acquittal that shocked the nation, and makes a powerful case as to why allowing Anthony to walk free was a devastating travesty of justice.
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About the Author
Jeff Ashton recently retired from a thirty-year career as a prosecutor in Orlando, Florida. He is the most experienced homicide prosecutor in the history of Orange County and a veteran of more than seventy successful homicide prosecutions. He lives in Florida.
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Imperfect JusticeProsecuting Casey Anthony
By Jeff Ashton
William MorrowCopyright © 2011 Jeff Ashton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChapter One
Joining The Team
The Daily News Café in Orlando is your typical lunch spot. Bustling,
people shouting orders, good sandwiches no matter the day, no
matter the season, the counter is always packed and the food is
always exactly what you need. Located on Magnolia Avenue just a block
and a half from the courthouse, the Daily News has long been a staple for
Orlando's lawyers, and so perhaps it was fitting that my good friend and
colleague at the State Attorney's Office Linda Drane Burdick brought me
there one hot day in August 2008 to talk about the case that currently
had the entire legal community abuzz: the disappearance of a two- year- old
girl named Caylee Marie Anthony.
The Daily News Café was always crowded at lunchtime, so Linda and
I ordered at the counter and went to find a table, where we began to talk
about the details discovered to date. She was the chief of the sex crimes/
child abuse unit, and as such, the Caylee Anthony case had been in her lap
since the beginning. I, like everybody else in Orange County, Florida, had
been following the story in the newspaper, and I knew the broad strokes,
but there was a lot going on behind the scenes that I was unaware of.
Linda had been contacted about the case on July 16, 2008, as a result
of the child's grandmother calling 911 to report Caylee missing. When
the call came in, Caylee hadn't been seen in thirty-one days. the child's
mother, Casey Anthony, told investigators that she had been working at
Universal Studios, a local theme park, and Caylee had been staying with
various friends and nannies, in particular a twenty-five-year old woman
named Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez. According to Casey, she had dropped
Caylee with the nanny on her way to work, but when she came back to get
her, both of them were gone and the phone had been disconnected. She
didn't report her daughter missing, but claimed that she had been searching
for her ever since. However, nothing Casey had told the police since the 911
call had proved true. As if the lies weren't bad enough, there was forensic
evidence from Casey's car that pointed not only to foul play, but to Casey's
In my thirty years as a prosecutor, I'd taken seventy homicide cases to
trial; all but two had returned guilty verdicts. I'd also prosecuted twelve
capital murder cases and won convictions in all of them. My record was
solid, but it was only one of the reasons Linda asked me to lunch that day.
In many of those convictions, the innovative use of forensic evidence was
where I'd distinguished myself. I had renowned expertise in scientific
evidence, and Linda thought my perspective and experience might be helpful.
As a prosecutor, I've always been interested in exploring how new scientific
techniques could be used to convict guilty suspects. In 1987 I successfully
prosecuted the first case in the world in which DNA evidence was used.
A man by the name of Tommy Lee Andrews had climbed through a window
and attacked a woman, slashing her with a box cutter and raping her repeatedly.
Andrews left a fingerprint on the window screen where he'd entered the
house, but since it was on the outside of the screen it was hard to connect
it to the crime. to positively ID the attacker, DNA was collected from both
semen in the rape kit and a sample of Andrews's blood, and it matched. the
jury accepted the new science and found him guilty, and the judge sentenced
him to prison. It was the kind of forensic evidence that was truly novel in a
criminal case, and that perspective was precisely what Linda needed.
For weeks before our lunch, Linda had been hinting about my joining
the prosecution team. I had mentored her since she'd joined the office
in 1989. We had worked together on many cases in the past, including a
cold case murder of a little girl that was solved by DNA. Linda was tough
and intense, with a big heart. I called her the marshmallow hand grenade.
Frank George, a ten-year veteran of the office, was already on board with
her, but as this shaped up to be a homicide, Linda wanted me on the team,
too. I was still the go-to man in forensics, and because the case against
Casey Anthony was developing with only circumstantial evidence, forensics
were going to be of critical importance.
The forensics at the forefront that day in August had to do with a nasty
odor and a nine-inch hair, both of which had been found in the trunk of
Casey's parents' Pontiac Sunfire, the car Casey had been driving the last
time she was seen with Caylee. A cadaver dog had alerted on the area and
reacted strongly when the trunk had been opened. Despite Casey's early
story that Caylee had been kidnapped, it was beginning to look a lot like a
Linda told me about the work of Dr. Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist
who was doing cutting-edge research in decomposition odor analysis.
Dr. Vass had examined some of the evidence from the trunk, and Linda
wanted me to call him to discuss his findings and see if his science could
be admissible. Linda was hoping to bring me into this case, and morsels of
forensics like this surely piqued my interest.
I was thrilled to be on Linda's short list, but before either of us could
begin to plan anything, office politics had to be negotiated. In 2002 I'd
been made a supervisor, leading the juvenile division of the State Attorney's
Office. the assignment was supposed to have been a promotion, but
I'd hated it. I missed trial work, and the following year I asked to return to
the felony trial branch. Even though I had founded the homicide division
in 1990, I was no longer a member of that department and could not move
back. Instead, I was now tucked away in the trial division, even though
I had twenty-eight years of service, an unblemished record, and a near
perfect conviction rate. After some difficulties with my supervisors, I'd
earned an unwarranted reprimand and been informed I was not a team
player. I became an overpaid desk ornament, doing trials I was way
Part of the problem was that there were two distinct camps in our office:
those who wanted every case that came across our desks to go to trial and
those who wanted to be more discriminating. those who thought that whoever
got arrested should get prosecuted didn't like my vociferous objection to
that policy. I was of the belief that we should choose the crimes that
warranted prosecution and prosecute them appropriately, without buckling to
public pressure. We shouldn't just rubber stamp what the people who had the
case before us had done; we needed to look at the merits of every case to determine
if a crime had been committed before we prosecuted it. I honestly think
that State Attorney Lamar Lawson, who headed our whole office, agreed with
me, but the people below him supported the "prosecute all" philosophy.
Maybe I was too abrasive in my conviction and rubbed those on the
other side the wrong way. For whatever reason, my successful record as a
prosecutor seemed to have been overshadowed by my beliefs. the political
players in the office clearly wanted me buried, and so I was. Nevertheless,
the 120 trial lawyers on staff still held me in the highest regard, and most
important, one of those was Linda Drane Burdick.
From the time I was eight years old, I'd had the makings of a lawyer.
When I was in fourth grade my grandmother and my great-aunt Thelma
were visiting us in Saint Petersburg. After a spirited discussion on some
topic, Thelma said to me, "You should be a lawyer."
"I think I'd like that," I responded. there weren't many cowboys in Florida,
and my friends had already cornered the careers of firemen and cops.
I am a Florida boy, born and raised in the great Sunshine State. I was
delivered to Barbara and Richard Ashton on October 3, 1957, in Saint Petersburg,
a west coast town on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of
Mexico. At the time, Saint Pete was a retirement mecca for Midwesterners,
so my family didn't quite fit the mold. Mom was an active homemaker, and
Dad was working as a CPA. My parents had met at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, ten miles north of Dayton, where my mother had an office job
and my father was a lieutenant in the air force.
I grew up in a neighborhood of typical middle class homes, in a modest
three bedroom ranch on a small lake, with my three sisters: Cindy, the
oldest by twenty-one months; Judy, three years younger than I; and Barb,
another three years behind her. I was an underachiever in school, but got
through the public school system reasonably well. I don't think I would have
been classified as a nerd, but I was on the nerd cusp not good at sports
and a member of the drama club. Oddly enough, while in the drama club,
I performed in a play with Angela Bassett that's right, the actress. She
was a year behind me at Boca Ciega High School, and a very sweet girl.
If that wasn't accomplishment enough, I also captained our High-Q team,
which participated in a local TV quiz bowl. Thirty- two teams competed in
single elimination matches over the school year. We won that year Go,
Pirates! Okay, maybe I was a full-on nerd.
In 1975 I graduated from high school in the respectable upper middle
of my class and enrolled at Saint Petersburg Junior College. I started studying
philosophy and logic and found it intriguing. I even made some money
tutoring in those subjects. For my junior year, I transferred to the University
of Florida in Gainesville and graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy in 1978.
My father, the accountant, was always nagging me to take business classes,
but I wouldn't hear of it. I didn't like numbers. I liked rational argument and
thoughtful discourse. I wanted to be an intellectual. As it turned out, I was
the only one in my family who did not go into some aspect of accounting.
I finished my undergraduate degree in three years, going to school summers
and taking tests for college credit without classes. I didn't know I was
allowed to have fun in college. My father never told me that he had been
anything less than studious when he was an undergraduate. It was only later,
too late for me to follow in his footsteps, that I found out he had quite enjoyed
the college life, drank his share, and played poker for spending money. I don't
know why I was in such a rush to complete school, but I kept up the break-neck
pace at the University of Florida Law School, completing my J.D. degree
in two and a half years. I was even fast tracking my personal life. Halfway
through law school, I married my high school friend and college sweetheart,
Amy Brotman. We went on to have two wonderful sons, Adam and Jonathan.
Sadly, the marriage didn't last and we split up after eight years.
right out of law school, I was hired by the State Attorney's Office in
Orlando and assigned to the area from which many successful prosecutors
have been launched the traffic division. My buddy Ted Cullen and I
shared an office in an old building that used to house the Federal District
Court. We were a block from the main office, so we were relatively
unsupervised. We weren't above a good natured prank or two. Our favorite was
waiting until someone was on the phone, and then taping the receiver to his
head. I did do serious work, too. I had a chance to prosecute some drunk
driving cases, and I actually got my first taste of scientific evidence when I
was doing hearings on the admissibility of Breathalyzer machines.
After eleven months, I moved to a misdemeanor branch, which was
out in the western part of the county. Seven months after that I transferred
to the felony prosecution division. My father had been somewhat relieved
when I went to law school, but he absolutely loved it when I became a
prosecutor. My parents were living two hours away, but even then, they would
occasionally make the trip to Orlando to watch me in trial.
In 1983 I prosecuted my first murder case and won. two years later, I
tried my first death penalty case. the victim was a businessman with a wife
and children who took "business trips" to a local gay resort called the Parliament
House. On one visit he hooked up with the wrong young man. When
they got back to the hotel room, the young man slit his throat and robbed
him. the jury convicted the defendant and then recommended the death
penalty, which the judge imposed. Before the state could execute him, he
hung himself in his prison cell.
Excerpted from Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton Copyright © 2011 by Jeff Ashton. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Joining the Team 9
2 Twenty-four Hours 16
3 Where Is Caylee Marie? 24
4 Four Lies 32
5 Caught 42
6 Kidnapped or Murdered? 50
7 Jailhouse Conversations 65
8 Thirty-one Days 82
9 Dealing in Forensics 97
10 Tracking Down Leads 108
11 The Grand Jury 126
12 Finding Caylee 137
13 The Swamp 146
14 Life or Death? 158
15 Lying to Themselves 177
16 Behind the Defense 187
17 Order in the Court 197
18 The Nuclear Lie 205
19 Jury Selection 223
20 Searching for Truth 236
21 Openings 244
22 The Big Show 255
23 Proving the Investigation 271
24 Defending Casey 282
25 The Prosecution Rests 300
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Would love to hear about evidence that the Prosecution was unable to present to the jurors for their case. I believe they did an excellent job presenting what they could against Casey Anthony. I'm certain Jeff has lots of evidence he knew about but couldn't touch or wasn't allowed during the trial for fear of a mistrial. I hope all of the jurors that allowed the real killer to walk reads this book and hears further evidence, and realizes they made a horrible mistake. There's only one person that knows what really happened and that's little Caylee's Mother, and we all know she doesn't know how to tell the truth. Better Jeff Ashton making money from this miscarriage of justice than Casey Anthony.
I full heartedly believe that Mr Ashton had his heart in this case like thousands across the nation. He was in the front row seat to see all the things we couldn't see that was sealed, and not admissible. If anyone is going to tell a story about an imperfect justice I'd like to hear it from Jeff, and I guess we will. Although, headlines say its a Casey Anthony story, so Im wandering if there was truth in the defense's opening statements. Sure would like to see who the dirty hands were that bagged and dumped Caylee and staged this case if thats the way of it. Have to read this book and find out. Enjoy your retirement Jeff ! Respectfully, Sky~
I said I would not read any books written by the Anthonys.. they don't know how to tell the truth! Jeff Ashton did a great job with what he was allowed to enter, unfortunately so many facts were not allowed because, according to Jose Baez, they would be prejudicial against his client. In a murder case such as this one, ALL evidence should be allowed! The courts seem to be more protective of the murderers than interested in justice for the victims. The verdict was a slap in the face for Ashton, so I'm glad he wrote this book. Maybe the 12 jurors who were so taken in by Baez's lies will also read it.
Can't wait to read!
What an awesome contribution this book will be to so many of us who followed this case from "day 31" and I can't think of anyone better to author a truthful accounting of this tragic injustice than a classy, professional and ethical individual, who has dedicated his entire adulthood / career advocating for victims. I have ordered this book for myself and every adult on my Christmas list and can't wait to read it! This is the ONLY book surrounding this circus that I have and / or will support, purchase or read.well, unless it's from Linda or Frank; since I would never read anything from the defense or any one with "Anthony" as their last name.EVER.even if it were free! I have pinned a "countdown to release" calendar and will be anxiously awaiting my receipt! Thanks also to B&N for offering this publication.
I cannot wait to read Mr. Ashton's book. He must be devestated regarding the outcome of the Casey Anthony Trial. He and Linda did a wonderful job but it was a hard fight for them when they were dealing with so many liars and 12 moronic jurors. The State can rest easy knowing that it is not "over" for Casey. I am thankful that Jeff has taken the time to pen this book. Good Luck To Mr. Ashton!!! We love you.
Exciting news! If any of that dredful family wrote the book, I wouldn't borrow it from the public library. However, Jeff Ashton did a wonderful job and if this is a small measure of support, then count me in!
Jeff Ashton is number one can"t wait to read the book Justice for Caylee Marie...RIP
Im looking forward to reading about your experince with this trial. Jeff keep your head up and dont listen to the negitive comments. We are greatful for all the time and energy you put in to try and bring justice for Caylee. Im sure Caylee is smiling down on you for being her voice. Its just to sad that the jury didnt hear her cries.
I purchase a lot of books from Barnes and Noble and good for them for putting this book out. As other avid readers have voiced I will also boycott any book by Casey Anthony or Jose Baez as they would have to be considered fiction. I hope by putting this book out it helps Jeff Ashton, because I know he put his heart into helping Caylee find justice. He is an honorable man and did the best he could with all the lies and manipulation by the defense. This is one book I can't wait to read.
I cannot wait for his book to come out. I believe he is the finest Prosecuter I have ever seen. The title is perfect as the Prosecutor's should have won this case hands down, unfortunately the juror's saw it a different way. I will be preordering this book and hope it becomes a #1 best seller as I believe it will.
I haven't read it yet but am anxiously waitin to. Thank you, Mr Ashton for such a super job at the trial. I think you did an awesome job but somehow the jurors just couldn't see it. I wish you the best in your retirement and may God richly bless you.
Without even reading this book yet, I am sure that it is going to be awesome. "Imperfect Justice" is an understatement when it come to this case.... I have alot of respect for Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick and was absolutely SHOCKED by the verdict as was most of the world...This trial was a joke to Jose Biaz and a total embarrasment to the State of Florida. Jose made a mockery of our justice system with his and Casey's lies which allowed a murderer to go free..It shocks me that a Defense attorney can LIE to save his client.. And the Jury... I won't even go there...Justice IS about the truth (or should be)
I believe that Jeff Ashton tried his best with what he had. I trully believe that she knew what happened to that little girl. And the people on the jury did not look and hear what they had. I know I will not read anything that comes out of Cassie's mouth.
One day I came out of my home and I smelled the decomposing body of my neighbor. I did not stand there and think, who left their garbage out to rot. I KNEW WHAT IT WAS. That baby was in that car decomposing and I believe it. I do not blame Jeff Ashton for losing the case. I for one, cannot wait until this book is released. At the very least, Casey Anthony threw her dead daughter in a garbage bag and threw her in the swamp to rot. I want to hear about the strategies behind trying to convict this women of murder. I am hoping that reading this book might shed some light on how 12 people couldn't see what the vast majority of the rest of us did and WHY she walked out free. I will however, boycott any publisher or store that decides to sell anything from Casey Anthony.
It is wonderful that Jeff Ashton is going to tell us the actual events in the casey case which he was unable to bring to trial. There is no question that casey was guilty of murder and it is sad that justice was not served. I hope this book is a great success with many followers so that the world will know the truth about the anthonys. I am also hoping that any book from the any of the anthony's be banned - all they know how to do is lie and we should give them absolutely no credibility or financial gain. best of luck, Mr Ashton.
This will be a book worth waiting for! How refreshing the truth will be--can't wait.
I couldn't admire Jeff Ashton anymore than I do. I cant hardly wait to receive the book he has written. I find him open, honest and very intelligent. I watched this case from gavel to gavel and it was obvious that Mr. Ashton was a passionate advocate for Caylee Marie. It gives me comfort that at least one book will be written that doesn't make excuses for Casey Anthony. A person who will always honor Caylee and her memory. Thank you Mr. Ashton!
I for one am extremely thankful we all have a chance to read the truth!! I've always preferred Non fiction to the spin off into la la land the defense team, Casey and the Anthony's have always tried to dish out! Bella Vita Casey! Thank you Jeff Ashton.
Like the rest of the nation,I have been intrigued by this case from the start. In addition, like the rest of the nation, I was left in a state of shock when the verdict was read. I look forward to Mr. Ashton's account and learning "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". I would not be able to bring myself to believe any other interpretation of this case: meaning from the killer's defense team or any member of the killer's family. Jeff Ashton, you are my hero and please be assured, sir, that most of the nation believes that you and your team did everything possible to find justice for Caylee. God bless you.
I hope that the people who have posted reviews and opinions about this book before ever having read the book are not citizens who are eligible to serve as jurors. If you wish to comment please do so with respect and responsibilty. Read the book with a fair and impartial mind. This is a very well written book that will definately provide any reader with new insite, understanding and learning, particularly about human nature, the law, the value of our system of justice, and all of our strengths and limitations. If you are considering purchasing/reading Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton, please ignore any reviews that were posted BEFORE the book was released. (I believe Judge Belvin Perry would advise the same and sustain this motion.)
I am appalled at the negative comments by the people that state they followed the trial, however, also state that Mr. Ashton lost the case. If you followed the trial closely and read the discovery that was dropped online, you should know that it wasn't Mr. Ashton that "lost" the case. Baez didn't win this case either. It was the jury that didn't pay attention during trial, and didn't comprehend any of the evidence that the prosecution presented. They never asked any questions during deliberations, and NEVER considered any of the lesser charges given (and read) to them by the judge. The jury failed, not the judicial system and not the prosecution. Casey Anthony and Baez should not profit from any book deal. However, Mr. Ashton is a brilliant, moral and upstanding attorney and I hope he profits very well from this book. Good luck Mr. Ashton!! I am looking forward to reading your book and finding out the truth. This will be the only book I will buy regarding this case.
The only People to stand up for Caylee was Jeff Ashton and his team, which I call "The A Team" if you want the truth of what happen this is the ONLY BOOK that will give you the REAL TRUTH!! Also if the others on The A Team write a book, I will buy theirs too!!!
Finally, someone on the side of Truth and Justice is speaking out. It's about time!
A good overview of the entire case, from the initial phone calls to 911 through to the (IMO) unbelievable verdict. If you watched the case on television you'll find some of the chapters repetetive but there's plenty in here about the people behind the scenes and the science - along with a good evaluation of the role the Anthonys played in allowing their daughter to escape prosecution. Well worth the read if only to see out how justice truly fails at times and how people can be illogical to the point of insanity.