THE TV MOVIE "Prosecuting Casey Anthony"
WHEN | WHERE Saturday night at 8 on Lifetime
WHAT IT'S ABOUT "What went wrong?" Florida state prosecutor Jeff Ashton (Rob Lowe) is asked during the course of a TV interview long after his case against Casey Anthony had circled down the drain. "You mean other than the verdict? Not a thing." Oh, yes, that: The six-week trial in 2011 of a young mother accused of murdering her daughter, Caylee, ended in an acquittal for the accused, accompanied by a chorus of outrage. This film tells some of that story, though Anthony herself (Virginia Welch) is rarely seen or heard. Instead, this is billed as the "inside" story from Ashton's perspective, based in part on his 2012 book, "Imperfect Justice." The story follows Ashton's efforts to convict Anthony -- think duct tape and chloroform -- with help from Chief Assistant State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick (Elizabeth Mitchell). And, in Anthony's corner, Jose Baez (Oscar Nuñez). Occasionally, viewers can hear the baying of Nancy Grace -- who helped convict Anthony in the court of public opinion -- in the background.
MY SAY If at all possible -- and it's probably not -- the best way to approach this film is with a blank slate. Strip away any memory you have of those months. The net benefit of this little act of mental gymnastics is that you may walk away with the impression that Anthony was innocent after all. It's a fascinating impression, and in that sense, so is the film. It is told from Ashton and Burdick's point of view, not Baez's, who -- far from being the slick Willy the media (and Ashton) made him out to be -- is seen here as shrewd, reasonable and quite possibly even right. Lowe's portrayal is not far removed from Chris Traeger of "Parks and Recreation": An earnest, self-righteous choir boy who is so enamored of the evidence he has collected that he tends to dismiss the obvious fact that some of it is probably circumstantial. He harrumphs when Baez reminds him of this, or (worse) smirks. Even Burdick grows weary of his antics, scolding him as a mother would her precocious and ill-mannered child. He is so blinkered that he never sees the verdict coming, nor quite grasps so-called Juror No. 3's blunt rationale for acquittal: That he may have been wrong.
BOTTOM LINE A surprisingly revisionist take on one of the most controversial trials of the decade -- from someone (Ashton) you'd least expect revisionism from. Nancy Grace, meanwhile, will hate "Prosecuting Casey Anthony."