By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
7:52 PM CST, January 17, 2013
Poor Virginia Welch. In "Prosecuting Casey Anthony" (7 p.m. Jan. 19, Lifetime; 2 stars out of 4), not only does she have the thankless task of playing "the most hated woman in America," but she has to do so with barely any dialogue.
Welch cries a lot, but that's about it. Needless to say, the Lifetime film does not allow viewers to get to know Casey Anthony, the single mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Instead, it presents a lopsided view of Anthony's 2011 Florida trial that's based on Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Ashton's book, "Imperfect Justice."
For those of you not familiar with the case, here's a quick recap. Caylee was reported missing in 2008, sparking national interest in the story. Fueled by media attention, the public loathed Casey, viewing her as a party girl who seemed uninterested in her daughter's welfare and who lied repeatedly to the police. The country was shocked when, after less than 11 hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted her of all the serious charges. Having been found guilty of only four misdemeanors, Anthony was set free.
Rob Lowe, fresh off his appearance as the now convicted Illinois wife killer in Lifetime's "Drew Peterson: Untouchable," plays Ashton, who seems little too sure of himself and his case as he squares off against Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez (Oscar Nunez). "When I get done with her, she's going to be the most hated woman in America," he says.
He does just that, and for much of the film seems to be winning the case. Most of the film is dedicated to laying out all the circumstantial evidence that made Anthony seem so guilty, beginning with the fact that she hadn't reported her daughter missing even after 31 days. It's not until about 90 minutes in, when braying cable newsies Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace (in actual news footage) talk about prosecutorial blunders, that we're shown it isn't the open-and-shut case it should have been.
While "Prosecuting Casey Anthony" does a decent job of re-creating the trial and media frenzy surrounding it, it fails to offer theories as to why the jury didn't convict her of murder. It also doesn't suggest that Ashton, so convinced of Casey's guilt himself, might have messed up.
The film dramatizes a TV interview with Ashton in which a reporter asks him what went wrong with the case. "You mean other than the verdict?" he responds. "Not a thing."
Hearing that controversial verdict again will no doubt bring up the same outrage people felt the first time they heard it. But it won't make them feel any better.
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