Book Review "Imperfect Justice" by Jeff Ashton

Sometimes, truth is a lot stranger than fiction. Do you remember where you were at 10 AM on October 3, 1995? I remember riding around with a co-worker awaiting the verdict of what was hailed as the “trial of the century”-the O.J. Simpson double-homicide murder trial. Had one been orbiting the planet when OJ was declared “not guilty,” I am quite sure he would have seen the earth tremble a bit.

In spite of what seemed like obvious motive and plenty of culpable evidence – ultimately, OJ was acquitted of any criminality in the death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, an aspiring model who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. [As an aside, justice caught up to OJ Simpson in December 2008 when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for armed robbery when he attempted to “reclaim” sports memorabilia at gunpoint.]

Jeff Ashton, who served as lead prosecutor against another famous murder suspect-Casey Anthony-has written a no-holds-barred account of the trial that shocked Florida in Imperfect Justice. In 2008, Casey Anthony was charged with the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. Although she had reported Caylee missing, Casey’s lies and malfeasance depicted her as a mother who had grown tired of the responsibilities of raising a child. Instead, it appeared as if Casey Anthony wanted to be the consummate party girl…even emblazoning a tattoo on her back indicating “Bella Vita” (meaning “Beautiful Life”) that she got weeks after Caylee died.

Ashton shares the prosecution’s case in what should have been a slam-dunk conviction against Casey. In just under 24 hours of deliberation, however, the jury acquitted Casey of any criminal involvement in her daughter’s death. The shock and outrage felt by the public was the fodder of all the news agencies covering the case. As Casey Anthony was whisked away under cover of darkness to a new life, there seemed to be very little justice for Caylee. Maybe the earth trembled once again as the verdict was announced in July 2011.

Imperfect Justice reminds the reader, in spite of not getting a guilty verdict, the greatest injustice was that a child was killed and discarded like common garbage. Ashton shares the journey made by investigators into the tremendous amounts of lies Casey told; the changing nature of Casey’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony, and the problems their inconsistencies caused the prosecution; and his dissatisfaction of Jose Baez, lead defense attorney for Casey Anthony. A full color-spread in the middle of the book includes pictures of Casey partying, the car that smelled of death, and various shots of the Anthony’s home.

Since Ashton postponed retirement for six months to finish this case, you have to put up with a little grandstanding and self-aggrandizement. Apparently, Ashton was one of the first attorneys to be involved with DNA forensics; and he styles himself as the quintessential science nerd. In spite of a little peacock press, after reading the details of the prosecution …

Brown University Ranking (Consistently Worst in Ivy Leagues)

Brown University has the distinct misfortune of consistently receiving the worst ranking amongst Ivy League schools in the highly regarded US News and World Reports rankings that are released annually. In the Best Colleges 2010 edition Brown came in at the number sixteen overall spot in terms of the most highly prized category of National Universities Rankings. For the 2010 rankings Brown finished one spot behind fellow Ivy League school Cornell University. Unfortunately for the good folks at Brown being affiliated with such a prestigious group as the Ivy League means accepting the reality that when competing in an objective ranking system with such highly regarded institutions at least one member will have to come in last place.

Being a top twenty American university (and in this specific instance a top sixteen university) is certainly no small feat. In fact, the case can easily be made that all of the top tier schools are outstanding institutions of higher education that provide tremendous resources for the brightest students on the planet. Parents all over the world would love to be able to give their children the opportunity to attend the top universities in America.

Brown University, located in Providence Rhode Island, has a storied history that dates back to pre-Revolutionary War days in a time before the United States of America even existed. Founded in 1764 by Baptist, Brown University has been both a proud member of the Colonial Colleges (recognizing the nine oldest North American institutions of higher learning) and the Ivy League which formally adopted the Ivy title only as recently as 1954 to distinguish the athletic conference in which eight academically focused members compete.

The eight schools that make up the Ivy League along with their 2010 US News and World Report ranking are:

  1. Harvard University (tied for number 1: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  2. Princeton University (tied for number 1: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  3. Yale University (number 3: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  4. University of Pennsylvania (number 4: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  5. Columbia University (number 8: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  6. Dartmouth College (number 11: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  7. Cornell University (number 15: 2010 US News and World Report rank), and finally
  8. Brown University (number 16: 2010 US News and World Report rank).

As evident by the co-number one spots (this year Harvard and Princeton) there are ties in the rankings. Also of note is the fact that clearly the Ivy League schools do not simply make up the entire list from positions one through eight. Sprinkled throughout the top sixteen spots are well respected non-Ivy League schools like:

  • Stanford (number 4: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  • Duke (number 10: 2010 US News and World Report rank),
  • Washington University in St. Louis (number 12: 2010 US News and World Report rank), and
  • Johns Hopkins University (number 14: 2010 US News and World Report rank) among others.

Over the past ten …