How many times did we hear those words coming from Orange County State Attorney Jeff Ashton? Let’s reflect on Mr. Ashton’s behavior in other cases he’s tried in Orange County court rooms.
This was released in February 2009 by Click Orlando’s Local 6 reporter Tony Pipitone.
It seems Casey Anthony prosecutor Jeff Ashton withheld evidence in one or possibly two prior cases. He’s said to have helped set up Benjamin Smith in his murder trial. It was tossed aside because an eye witness in this case was told by Ashton not to reveal she was paid $3000 (later reported $4000) reward in exchange for her testimony. While on the stand Ashton agreed this was Brady material. Brady material is a law that says prosecutors must disclose evidence to the defense that may help their client.
In the Huggins case, almost whimsical to think that Judge Perry and Jeff Ashton were the players in the mistrial of victim Carla Larson was brutally murdered in 1997. The reason was because Ashton withheld a taped statement from a witness that was favorable to the defense.
When a retrial was ordered John Huggins needed a new lawyer. A circuit judge appointed Orlando attorney Cheney Mason to represent Huggins. But Mason withdrew in a dispute with Orange County over legal fees. He complained that the $50-an-hour rate the county has been paying lawyers in death penalty cases like Huggins’ is ridiculous. Subsequently, Judge Belvin Perry Jr. had increased the fee paid to attorneys in capital cases to $120 an hour but Mason said the increase still wasn’t enough.
Ashton was also scolded by the Florida Supreme Court and upheld Perry’s ruling for a new trial. John Huggins was later sentenced to death in retrial trial.
Another news headline read “Death-row inmate refuses to leave cell for hearing”
July 30, 2010
Perry said “this case is mired in quicksand” and said he can’t know for sure if Huggins is refusing to cooperate with his lawyers because he is delusional or because he is trying to delay the process.
In 1996 Benjamin Smith, then a 5-time felon told jurors he didn’t do it. He and some of his family members blamed a step-cousin, Vincent Hubbard. But investigators said it was clear that Hubbard, 20, wasn’t guilty.
Benjamin Smith was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for paralyzing Kenny Dozier and killing 15-year-old Ellis Glenn Tapley after the two chased him for trying to break into their truck outside the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Attorney Robert Nesmith called the case “a rush to prosecution” and an example of “shabby” police work. He said eyewitnesses who identified Smith as the shooter in police lineups were mistaken, and none of them positively identified him during the trial.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton said Smith’s defense was fabricated and evolved over the years.
Smith became a suspect soon after the shooting, which occurred after Dozier and his friends attended a nighttime truck and tractor pull at the stadium in February 1996.
One of Smith’s relatives called police to say that Hubbard, who had been staying with Smith in a home near the Citrus Bowl, looked like a police sketch of the suspect.
However in May 2009, Click Orlando, Local 6 ran this story.
“Convicted Murderer Could Go Free”
“Witness Says Police Harassed Her Into Testifying”
The man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1996 murder of a 15-year-old boy after a Citrus Bowl monster truck show could soon go free.
Orange County Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc today threw out the conviction of 37-year-old Benjamin Smith, ruling the defense should have been told before trial that the state’s key witness was paid a $4,000 Crimeline reward after she implicated Smith.
Mazzie Lee Jackson Pauldo, 42, testified in February that now-retired Orlando police Detective Glenn Gause hounded her for over a year to implicate Smith, which she eventually did in July 1998. She testified Orlando police harassment led to her losing a job and she feared police would fabricate charges against her or her husband, who was on 15 years’ probation at the time.
Judge Bob LeBlanc in granting Smith’s motion for a new trial said he did not find police or prosecutors coerced false statements or testimony from Pauldo – something both Gause and prosecutor Jeff Ashton denied doing.
Instead, he focused on Pauldo getting a $4,000 reward check dated August 12, 1998, the same day Smith was indicted.
“She wasn’t a confidential informant or a tipster,” LeBlanc said. “She was paid because she provided information to law enforcement. That information should have been disclosed” to the defense and the jury that convicted Smith on May 26, 2000.
“It was (Pauldo’s) testimony that convicted Mr. Smith and nothing else,” LeBlanc said, adding, “had the jury known she had been paid $4,000, that would have gone to her credibility and bias.”
Benjamin Smith case has not been re-tried as of this date but has been granted in the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida as of January 21, 2011.
In my opinion:
Jeff Ashton’s ostentatious misbehavior in Orange County Courthouse is nothing new. Casey Anthony and her Defense Team have every right not to trust SAO Jeff Ashton or the OCSO for that matter. There are at least two defense attorneys and two Judges that know him well. Surely Jose Baez, Cheney Mason, Dorothy Sims and Ann Finnell are watching him very closely and so should we.
To you Mr. Ashton
“I Object Your Honor!”