“Prosecuting Casey Anthony," 8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime
“Prosecuting Casey Anthony" is a re-creation of the 2011 tabloid trial of the young Florida single mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter.
Rob Lowe portrays Jeff Ashton, the assistant state attorney who conducted the case against Anthony. (The film is based on Ashton’s book, “Imperfect Justice," written with Lisa Pulitzer.)
The bland role of the veteran prosecutor doesn’t give Lowe much to work with. There isn’t much suspense in the script, nor are there surprising revelations about what happened. The cause of the child’s death is never dramatized or even fully established.
The true appeal of “Prosecuting Casey Anthony" lies in our strong residual interest in finding out just how our criminal system could manage to be blinder than Mr. Magoo.
From the time Anthony’s daughter, Caylee, was reported missing in 2008, the case sparked rabid national attention. In the court of public opinion, the young mother became a deeply reviled figure, perceived as a party girl who seemed utterly uninterested in her daughter’s welfare and who lied repeatedly to the police.
That’s why the verdict came as such a profound shock. After less than 11 hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted her of all the serious charges and found her guilty of only four misdemeanors. Facing the death penalty, Anthony instead was set free days after the trial concluded.
Elizabeth Mitchell (“Revolution") plays Ashton’s second chair. Virginia Welch has the thankless (and nearly wordless) task of playing Casey. And Caylee is represented by a young actress named, somewhat eerily, Kaylee Lussier.
Ashton is convinced his case is “rock solid," and indeed, the script does a thorough job of inventorying all the behaviors and omissions that made Anthony seem so abundantly guilty, beginning with the fact that she never reported her daughter missing, even after 31 days.
In the end, this is a satisfying true-crime drama because it rekindles all the powerful emotions of the original trial. The indications of guilt are so overwhelming and so obvious that for many the verdict will still seem unthinkable. Outrage can be surprisingly cathartic, even the second time around.