Born on October 3, 1957, in St. Petersburg, Florida, Jeff Ashton studied law at the University of Florida School of Law and became an Orlando prosecutor. In 1987, he was the first lawyer to earn a conviction by introducing DNA evidence into a case. Decades later, he became joined the prosecution in the sensational 2011 Casey Anthony trial. Ashton has written a book about his experiences, Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, and was sworn in as a Florida state attorney in 2013.
Background and Early Career
Jeffrey L. Ashton was born on October 3, 1957, in St. Petersburg, Florida, to Barbara and Richard Ashton, and grew up with three sisters. At a young age, Ashton decided to pursue a career in law, partially due to the encouragement of his great aunt when he was a child. After Boca Ciega High School, he attended St. Petersburg College before transferring to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he majored in philosophy and graduated in in 1978. He then attended the university's law school, graduating and taking on work as a prosecutor in Orlando.
Pioneer in Using DNA Evidence
Jeff Ashton worked in a number of divisions that were part of the state attorney's office before winning his first murder conviction in a 1983 trial. While serving as assistant state attorney, in 1987, Ashton took on a groundbreaking role: He began working as prosecutor on the trial of a Florida serial rapist, and during the trial, he introduced DNA-based evidence. The case resulted in the first conviction using DNA testing, with such evidence being used regularly thereafter, in cases throughout the country. Three years later, Ashton established his office's homicide division.
For a time in 2002, Ashton was appointed as head of the juvenile division of the state attorney's office, but missed the courtroom and decided to return to prosecuting. Over his decades-long career, he has taken hundreds of cases to trial.
The Casey Anthony Trial
In June 2011, Ashton worked as prosecutor in the highly sensational Casey Anthony trial. Anthony, a young woman from Florida, was accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony, whose remains were found near the Anthony home. The case received a huge amount of media attention, which tended to focus on the Anthony family's back story. The prosecution took the stance that Anthony was guilty of murder, and the defense countered that Caylee's death was an accident that was subsequently covered up.
On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse charges. Anthony was found guilty of charges related to providing the police with false information and was placed on parole after receiving a fine and credit for time served. Ashton was stunned by the decision.
Publishing a Book and Public Office
As he'd intended, Ashton retired from working as prosecutor after the trial and worked part-time at a law firm. In November 2011, Ashton released the best-selling book Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony, published by William Morrow. In his book, the prosecutor deconstructs the case, including his thoughts on Anthony defense attorney Jose Baez and the use of the death penalty.
In 2012, Ashton ran for the state attorney seat in the Floridian counties of Orange and Osceola, against his former supervisor, Lawson Lamar. Ashton won the election and, in early January 2013, was sworn in as a state attorney. That same month, the Lifetime network aired Prosecuting Casey Anthony, a TV movie based on Ashton's book, starring Rob Lowe as the prosecutor.
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