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December 24, 2011

Casey Anthony lawyers wants prosecutor held in contempt

December 24, 2011
Defense attorneys for Casey Anthony want former prosecutor Jeff Ashton to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for including information from sealed depositions in his recently released book about the case.

Anthony’s defense attorney, Cheney Mason, filed the motion Wednesday. It asks Chief Judge Belvin Perry to compel Ashton to appear and tell the judge why he should not face contempt charges.

Ashton revealed details from those depositions in his book, but has said he was relying on his memory and notes to reference the material.

Ashton, now a former assistant state attorney, wrote about the depositions of two mental health experts — Dr. Jeffrey Danziger and Dr. William Weitz — in his book, "Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony."

According to Ashton’s book, Danziger said that Anthony told him she "believed that her father drowned Caylee deliberately or drowned her while he was molesting her, even though she had no evidence that George (Anthony) had ever molested Caylee in the past."

Danziger also expressed concerns about becoming a "mouthpiece" for these "very, very serious allegations" that lacked real evidence, Ashton writes in the book.

Weitz, referring to the account Casey Anthony gave him, gave a similar version of events. He indicated Casey Anthony asserted "that Caylee could not have died by accident and that George had murdered her," according to the book.

Casey Anthony said her father yelled at her, "It’s your fault. It’s your fault. You’re a bad mother," according to the Weitz version.

Ashton wrote that both the prosecution and defense agreed not to have the depositions made public "because the allegations were so sensational."

Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry agreed and sealed the documents before the trial began.

In the latest motion, Mason acknowledged that he hasn’t read Ashton’s book, but references a motion filed by The Orlando Sentinel earlier this week, in which the news organization seeks to unseal those two key depositions.

"Mr. Ashton’s violation of this Court’s Order has now been used as a justification for a request to unseal materials that this Court has determined fits the legal criteria for nondisclosure," Mason’s motion said.

"This Court issued a clear directive (’sealed means sealed’). Mr. Ashton has now violated this Order twice; once based on the flawed justification that somehow revealing ’substantive information’ from the depositions was not a violation of the Order. The second violation was strictly for profit. Moreover, the continued dissemination of Mr. Ashton’s book is an ongoing violation of this Court’s Order."

The Sentinel seeks to unseal the depositions of Danziger and Weitz. Casey Anthony’s defense team in March wanted to use both as witnesses but neither Danziger nor Weitz ever was called.

Their depositions are significant because they recount how Casey Anthony explained the disappearance of her daughter Caylee Marie in the summer of 2008 to the two mental health experts.

Orlando Sentinel attorney Rachel Fugate argues in the motion that Ashton "authored a book in which he discussed the substance of the sealed depositions, which came from his memory and his notes."

"At this point in the proceedings, there is no basis to continue the sealing of these depositions," Fugate argues. "Any sealing order must be narrowly tailored to accomplish its purpose. A sealing order is no longer necessary to protect Ms. Anthony’s fair trial rights."

A hearing date has not yet been set.

Anthony, 25, was found not guilty in July of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of her daughter. Since then, she has repeatedly refused to answer questions about her daughter’s disappearance in two separate civil lawsuits filed against her.

The depositions offer another way to review one of her most recent versions of the account of her daughter’s disappearance.

During his opening statement in the criminal trial, Anthony defense lawyer Jose Baez told jurors Caylee died in a drowning in mid-June 2008 and also said George Anthony discovered the lifeless child and yelled at Casey. But many of the claims Baez made in his opening were left unsupported by the defense during the trial.

In the book, Ashton theorized that Baez wanted the two doctors to get Casey Anthony’s story in front of jurors without having her testify. They would also have provided an explanation for why she waited a month to report the child’s disappearance, Ashton wrote.

In the end, the defense pulled both psychologists from its witness list after the prosecution successfully argued to have its own expert examine Casey as well.

"We were surprised that Baez had not anticipated the request for our own expert evaluation and considered that before showing his hand like he had," Ashton wrote.

Mason’s motion also said that Ashton revealed the contents of the sealed depositions to George Anthony and that defense attorneys raised the issue with Perry during an "informal hearing."

The motion said Ashton justified his disclosure of details of the deposition by explaining that he relied on his memory and notes, and didn’t show the actual deposition to George Anthony.

"This is a distinction without a difference," Mason wrote.

At that time, Perry reserved ruling on whether or not Ashton should be held in contempt, the motion said.

[Source : bostonherald.com]

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