Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lifetime presents "Prosecuting Casey Anthony"

On Saturday, January 19, 2013, Lifetime TV (along with 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate) premiered the non-fiction drama “Prosecuting Casey Anthony”, directed by Peter Werner.

I’ve reviewed a couple of documentary films about wrongful convictions, so it’s interesting to look at a questionable acquittal.

Rob Lowe plays the prosecuting attorney (in Orlando, FL) Jeff Ashton.  Lowe, now about 48, still looks youthful since he is tall and lean.  Since he’s usually a nice guy (I recall that he was in Stephen King’s “The Stand”), he seems a little out of place here, as he talks like he is on a moral crusade.  The film is framed by his giving a post acquittal interview, in which Ashton says he has not regrets for his behavior during closing arguments, which could have proved a distraction.  Ashton had an almost perfect conviction record before this case, according to the film.

The short film that follows, “Behind the Headlines: Prosecuting Casey Anthony” presents interviews with jurors, who say that Ashton just did not prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that Casey actually killed her daughter.The circumstantial evidence, involving the remains, the car trunk, and Casey's delay could have seemed quite incriminating but not absolute proof.   The short film also explains how the jury was unusually quick, and did not ask questions during deliberations.  The short film compares this case to the O.J. Simpson acquittal in the 1990s. Marcia Clark covered the case in her book “Without a Doubt”.  The film does not cover Casey’s public vilification and living in hiding (“mob justice”).  It does explain her conviction on a minor charge.

The middle part of the film explores the defense theory that Casey (VirginiaWelch) was abused by her father, and shows a confrontation between the defense and the father (Kevin Dunn).  Of course the father denies it, but in the short film there is discussion of his "body language" during the trail.  The father says he was very attached to his granddaughter Cayley and considered taking his own life. 

The link for the film is here.

One aspect of the moral picture was striking to me.  The prosecution presented Casey as wanting to be rid of responsibility for her daughter so she could party.  That sounds pretty terrible from a parent, and hopefully isn’t encountered very often.  But one can be responsible for someone else for reasons other than his or her chosen actions or behavior.  For example, one can be responsible for one’s parents (about thirty states have filial responsibility laws).  So the idea that one goes through life making choices based on the responsibility that can follow those choices is a bit misleading.  The recent film “Amour” Jan. 13)poses a moral question regarding eldercare, but in this case, with a spouse.  A film based on a situation like this with an adult child could be very interesting. 

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