Alternate juror Russell Huekler and lead prosecutor Jeff Ashton spoke out about the shocking not guilty verdict reached by the jury in the Casey Anthony murder case on Wednesday.
Although Huekler did not deliberate in the case, he did sit through the entire trial and told Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today that he “wholeheartedly” agreed with the decision reached on Tuesday.
“There were 3 reasons that I felt she was not guilty,” the juror shared. “The first was the prosecution didn’t present the evidence that would have sustained either a murder charge or manslaughter charge.”
“Secondly, they didn’t show the motive behind the case ... Just because Casey was a party girl did not show why she possibly killed Caylee, especially since she had the support system of the grandparents when she wanted to go out.”
He concluded, “And thirdly, the prosecution or no one could show us how did Caylee actually pass away.”
Casey, 25, was charged on seven counts including first-degree murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony, aggravated child abuse, and manslaughter. Jurors found her not guilty on all three counts though she was found guilty for lying to law enforcement.
When asked by Lauer how he would connect the dots about why a young mother would have not reported her daughter missing for 31 days, gone out partying, and lie to investigators about what happened, Huekler responded, “Well, that’s the $64,000 question.”
He attributed the lies that Casey told to her dysfunctional family, which the defense sought hard to show throughout the case.
“In your opinion, did Casey Anthony get away with murder?” Lauer asked Huekler. “No, she did not get away with murder.”
Jeff Ashton also spoke to Lauer and relayed his disbelief about the verdict. After only 11 hours of deliberation by the jury, the prosecution felt they had a strong case and did not think a not guilty verdict in that short period of time was realistic.
“We were all shocked,” Ashton told Lauer. “I mean, you pour three years of your life into a case, as a prosecutor you don’t take a case unless you believe in it. We have great respect for the jury system and the rule of law and you can’t do what we do and not respect jury’s verdict but it was not easy to hear. We know we did a good job and we accept what happened.”
Ashton also commented that the state always believed that if anyone could look at the photographs of how Caylee was found and not conclude how she died, then so be it.
Though there was no definitive expert who pointed to the exact cause of death nor a key witness who saw Casey killing her daughter, the prosecutor stated that many murder cases were circumstantial and didn’t necessarily need a witness to be proven guilty.
The state thought that the strongest piece of evidence they had was showing the jury Casey’s actions after her daughter went missing – partying, not reporting the purported accident, lying to investigators.
“Her actions [were] just so completely inconsistent with any kind of accidental explanation for the death,” he said.
But acknowledging that beyond a reasonable doubt was indeed a high standard, Ashton respected the jury for applying the law to the case, as they perceived it.
The attorney also recognized that Jose Baez, whom he had undeniable tension with throughout the trial, presented himself very well and that he had great potential.
When asked whether the state would take legal action against Cindy Anthony for perjuring herself on the witness stand, in regards to her statement about searching for chloroform on the family computer, Ashton was not sure.
“I hate to say this, but [as a prosecutor] you’re somewhat accustomed to family members trying to help their fellow family members,” he said. “This of course, was a rather important deception if you will that obviously was proven to be so by the other evidence, what they do with it is going to be a difficult decision that I’m glad I don’t have to make.”
Ashton, who has been a prosecutor for 30 years, will be retiring soon and purposely delayed his retirement in order to take on the Casey Anthony case.
“Will this always be the one that got away?” Lauer questioned.
“No ... this was a great case for me to end my career as a prosecutor with because it was so fascinating, so varied, and so complex. It was a prosecutor’s dream in terms of presenting it. No regrets on any of that.”
He concluded the interview by saying that no one will ever know what happened to Caylee Anthony. “Even if Casey got out of jail and wrote a book and said it, I don’t know that any of us will really know if we could believe it or not.”
Casey Anthony faces sentencing Thursday morning for her four counts of lying to law enforcement. The maximum jail time she may potentially face is four years.