Sanford had the attention of the nation Saturday night as the verdict came down on the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was found not guilty on the charges of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter over the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.
This is the 2nd major trial to take place in Central Florida in 3 years. The Casey Anthony murder trial was an even bigger spectacle with a media village engulfing an empty a lot on Orange Avenue and like Zimmerman, Anthony was also found Not Guilty in the death of her young daughter Caylee.
The end of that trial was the beginning of one of the biggest political stories of 2012. I’m talking about the path that led Former Casey Anthony Prosecutor, and current Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Jeff Ashton to victory over his former boss and 20 year incumbent Lawson Lamar.
The “Casey Race” was one of the nastiest contests of the previous election cycle and in my opinion, the biggest political rivalry of the year. It was high drama with both candidates determined to talk about the Public Office at stake, but with the cloud of the biggest trial in the county’s history over them. Ashton ultimately won that race, after a brilliant sequence of personal and political decisions made, capitalizing on a case he actually lost.
The Pundits won’t see that kind of Political Drama this time. Not here in Seminole and not in Duval County where the Case also has roots. Here is why.
This case wasn’t as “sexy” as the Casey Anthony Trial: Keeping things in perspective, a young man is dead but the media and the audiences involved wanted the dirt behind the stories involved. The audiences were rooting for Ashton and his fellow prosecutor, Linda Drane-Burdick because they wanted answers and Anthony herself was an easy villain. Who killed Caylee? How could a mother go so long with out reporting her child missing? How was Casey’s party lifestyle involved? Who knew what?
We know what happened in the Zimmerman trial. It was a question over how the jury would interpret the evidence and both party’s cases. There was no mystery involved.
Both Sides have Allies and Enemies: It was Casey against the world during her trial, that wasn’t the case with Zimmerman, where you had strangers donating thousands to his defense account. Leaders of the Black Community organized rallies attended by thousands in Trayvon’s memory and calling for justice. The response on social media has had voices sticking up for the Martin family and George Zimmerman.
Any future candidates from this case will have a built in block of voters with a negative opinion of them.
“Cashing In” on this trial won’t be as easy: Ashton, Defense Attorney Jose Baez and eventually (if the courts go her way) Casey Anthony herself, all found a way to make money from that case. Ashton used revenues from a Book Deal, Media Tour, and Public Appearances to infuse his campaign with cash along the way. No one involved in this trial will be able to replicate his success in that regard.
And if you don’t like Judge Debra Nelson, you’ve got time and Name ID against you: Nelson was unopposed and re-elected in 2012, that means potential challengers will have to wait six years to take her on. Even if she was up for re-election, Casey Anthony Judge Belvin Perry enjoyed positive Name ID and a significant fundraising advantage against his challenger last year and was easily re-elected. Nelson has her critics but ultimately her disciplined handling of this case will be favorable.
Perhaps the best effect of the Casey Race was that it got to public interested in one of the more important races on the ballot. It’s unfortunate that voters don’t pay more attention to the contests until they’re seeing the results play out on cable tv.
And they’re not going to see it after this trial.
By the way, Ashton will be personally prosecuting the 4 young suspects behind the recent shootings in Osceola County. A statement from one of the four alleged shooters say they did it “because it was fun” Personally taking cases was one of his biggest talking points on the campaign trail last year.