Casey Anthony's Lawyer Jose Baez: Lifetime Movie Didn't Convict (Q&A)
'Tot Mom's' former attorney says we still don’t know his acquitted client after the TV movie premiered last Saturday.
Lifetime's Prosecuting Casey Anthony drew more than just curious trial watchers to its world premiere last Saturday, but did the real-life star of the tele-movie adaptation of the "trial of the century" also tune in?
According to the lawyer who won acquittal for accused child murderer Casey Anthony, she probably did.
"I can't imagine not," Jose Baez told Celebuzz in an exclusive interview. "If someone did a movie about me, I would watch."
But according to the lawyer, the movie based on the Florida prosecutor who failed to win one of the country's most notorious capital cases offered no compelling evidence or character study of Anthony, charged with killing her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Plus the acting was too "Hollywood."Rob Lowe's portrayal of lawyer Jeff Ashton, Baez said: "I don't think he captured Jeff Ashton's essence or personality. That was probably the most disappointing thing. Jeff Ashton is a much better lawyer than Rob Lowe portrayed."
Lifetime casts its Jose Baez with Cuban-American actor-comedian Oscar Nunez, who plays the role of Oscar Martinez on NBC's The Office.
The only thing the pair had in common, according to Baez, was "that we both have a 'Z' at the end of our names."
Speaking to Celebuzz Editor-in-Chief Dylan Howard for his first review of the Prosecuting Casey Anthony, Baez also revealed why he rejected the filmmakers' offers to work on the film and discussed why he thinks it's unlikely a film will ever be told through the eyes of the woman dubbed, "Tot Mom."
Celebuzz: You are the ultimate reviewer, Jose. Next to Casey herself. Did you get a chance to catch it?
Jose Baez: I saw it. I have it Tivo'd and I had a chance to look at it.
CB: What were your thoughts?
JB: I think I'm the worst person to ask, to be honest. Because when you're in a situation like that, you seem to nitpick at a lot of the stuff that was going on as far as looking at what was actually said and not said and so on and so forth. I'm sure my opinion was much more nitpicky than somebody who was a little bit more removed from the situation.
CB: What were you nitpicking on specifically?
JB: It was interesting that a lot of the things that I said -- both in court and out of court -- were used. But when I said nitpicking, I meant that words were changed around and so on and so forth. Generally speaking, I think it was an interesting account of the prosecution's version.
JB: You have to understand that it was so from the prosecution's perspective. I'm a little biased. Mr. Ashton is probably the right person to ask.
CB: At one point, Ashton referred to you as "smarmy." You've been called worse...
JB: I have.
CB: What's it like to have to deal with those characterizations, especially when this film came through the lens of the prosecution?
CB: How do you think the film characterized your former client, Casey? It seemed to me she was portrayed as guilty from the start of the film.
JB: I don't know if you can tell that given she had one line in the movie. Actually if you count the video, I guess a couple. She was such a small part of the movie that I didn't really think that they had an opportunity to develop her character or to show anything about how she came across. I'm sure what we saw is the way that Jeff Ashton saw her; I don't have any doubt of that. But I think where the movie fell short is that they really didn't get to explore Casey or anything about her. What I did find most fascinating about the whole ordeal is that I don't know how many times you can tell the same story over and over again. The prosecution's story. We've heard it for three years prior to trial and we've heard it since after the trial. No one gets to hear the other side of the story.
CB: Being that Casey was found not guilty. Will her story ever be told?
JB: Who knows. Maybe it will. I don't know.
CB: You wrote a book, Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story. Would you allow your book to be made into a tele movie, in the vein of Prosecuting Casey Anthony?
JB: I'm a little busy practicing law right now. I'm a lawyer, not a movie maker. The life I am living is not necessarily one that involves making movies.
After actor Oscar Nunez, playing Jose Baez, reveals a major hole in a piece of key evidence for the prosecution, the prosecuting attorneys must scramble to re-strategize, in this scene from the Lifetime movie Prosecuting Casey Anthony.
CB: If not from you then, do you think that the story of the defense and Casey story will ever be told?
JB: I don't know, because I don't know if people want to really hear it. People have been fed the same story over and over and over again. I'm sure a lot of people don't want to hear and know about it. It's fascinating, because usually you hear two sides of the story, or the person's side who actually won the trial, as opposed to the person who didn't.
JB: Exactly. I also find it fascinating about the movie that the undertone was 'what went wrong?' But the main character, both in the book and the movie, explained that he wouldn't have changed anything. That he wouldn't have done anything differently. How do they know what went wrong? They're not willing to change. I find that fascinating. In my book, I lay out piece by piece where I think the prosecution went wrong and where they blundered -- the mistakes they made and mistakes that I made. After all, you never try a perfect case. In this movie, they really didn't answer the question what went wrong for the prosecution. Then again, I did not participate in the making of the movie in any way. They did call me…
CB: Did they?
JB: Yes, they did. Allison Cross, the writer of the screenplay, actually contacted me but I was busy in Aruba where I was representing Gary Giordano [The Maryland man who was jailed for months in Aruba in the suspected death of his traveling companion] at the time. The last thing I was going to do was stop working on one case. I just really didn't have the time when they came calling.
CB: What did you think of Rob Lowe's portrayal of Jeff Ashton?
After hearing Casey Anthony's defense argument, prosecuting attorney Jeff Ashton (Rob Lowe) is all the more determined to win the case, in this scene from the Lifetime movie Prosecuting Casey Anthony.
JB: Surprisingly, I don't think he captured Jeff Ashton's essence or personality. That was probably the most disappointing thing. Jeff Ashton is a much better lawyer than Rob Lowe portrayed. Jeff was much more assertive, much more emotional and I think that the portrayal of Jeff was weak.
CB: That said, I thought the courtroom moment where you were surmising your case when Ashton laughed at you was pretty much spot on?
JB: Again that's my nitpicking. I thought they blew it. It didn't happen like that at all. It was much more emotional, much more spontaneous. He was laughing a lot harder than what Rob Lowe was doing and the anger was a lot more intense than what the movie portrayed. Again, see, what I'm saying is that's me being nitpicking. Whereas you may have thought it captured the moment, I thought it was downplayed.
JB: See there is where I think you're wrong. Casey was never narcissistic about the media coverage, because it was never that official to her. When you're in a situation like that -- a trial for your life and people are attacking you and saying things that you believe are not true -- it's not narcissism; you don't enjoy that -- contrary to what people think. That's why I'm telling you that story just can't be told; it hasn't been told. It's interesting that you would pose a question like that because that's legitimately what you think and I can't argue with that. But somewhere along the lines, something made you feel that way. Was it something you heard or was told, as opposed to something you actually saw. Or were you there with Casey. You know what I mean?
CB: Sure. I do. But in the aftermath of the trial, we saw video diaries released that were recorded by Casey, at a time when America did not want to hear from you. Somebody creating a video to me suggests that person is craving the spotlight or some communication with a wider audience.
JB: If the release of those videos was intentional by that person, yes. But if they were meant to be kept secret for reflective thought or something therapeutic, then I would disagree. The only one who can answer that would be Casey.
CB: Even though you don't represent her, do you still talk to her?
JB: I talk to all of my previous clients, at least occasionally. But it's not something that I'm actively involved in. I'm very committed to practicing law right now and I have new clients with new problems that need my direct and undivided attention. I would be doing them a disservice if I was laboring on cases that are already over with.
CB: How was Casey doing the last time you spoke to her?
JB: A lot better than she was in prison. I'd like to say that I'm a strong person but being locked down in a cell for 23 hours a day, for three years, having lost your child, being put on trial for your life, whether you live or die, that's not a pretty situation by any stretch of the imagination. So being free, however little you can call this kind of freedom, is still a lot better than the previous situation she was in.
CB: No doubt. I thought the Cheney Mason portrayal was very good, if not for anything but aesthetics. [Art Hindle played Cheney Mason].
JB: I will agree. They nailed Cheney. I think they also nailed Cindy Anthony [Casey's mother] and Bobby Williams [the tattoo artist who etched “Bella Vita” (“Beautiful Life”) on Casey's
was very good as well. But everyone else was just... I guess, Hollywood, especially as it relates to Oscar Nunez. The only thing we have in common is that we have a 'Z' at the end of our names.
Prosecuting attorney Jeff Ashton (Rob Lowe) and defense attorney Jose Baez (Oscar Nunez) question George Anthony about his media appearances and attempted suicide, in this scene from the Lifetime movie.
CB: Perhaps it was coincidence, but the premiere of the film came came during the Jodi Arias trial -- a case where everyone is trying to draw the inevitable comparison between her and Casey Anthony.
JB: I see more differences than similarities between Jodi and Casey. I see where people draw the similarities but they're going to do that with every young woman that stands trial. That will be done from now on and until eternity I guess. But as it relates to that case they are very, very different.
CB: Are you watching the Arias trial closely?
JB: I've been asked to comment on it and I've followed it only as well as I can because, as I said, I've been tied up with other matters. I try to follow it a little bit but only because I enjoy watching trials.
CB: If you were defending Jodi, what would you be doing?
JB: I think they're doing all they can do right now. You're given the facts. You aren't going to change the facts. I think that came out in the Lifetime movie. But you have to play with the hand that you're dealt and I think her lawyers appear to be experienced and seem to know what they're doing. I think they're doing the best they can for their client.
CB: Unlike the Casey trial, where there appeared to be a lot of circumstantial evidence, in this particular incident the evidence seems to be mounting against Jodi.
JB: Well you can't compare the evidence. They've got the next best thing to a video. That's a photo. [Nude photos place Arias at the scene of the crime, but she says she attacked in self-defense.] There's nothing even remotely close to that in Casey's case. I don't think it gets much better than that for a prosecutor.
What did you think of the film? Tell us your rating, below. Then watch our own interview with actress Virginia Welch, who played Anthony in Prosecuting Casey Anthony.