ORLANDO, Fla. — A new Court TV series hosted by former CNN and MSNBC legal analyst Ashleigh Banfield takes viewers on deep dives into intriguing cases that once captured the public's attention. And the Sept. 13 premiere episode focuses on the Casey Anthony trial in Orlando.
"Judgment with Ashleigh Banfield" offers looks at new interviews and exclusive reveals, while taking audiences inside the courtroom by utilizing Court TV's "trove of archive material."
"In this day and age, in particular, you can't get more pure and pristine reporting than being inside the courtroom," said Banfield, who has worked in courtroom coverage for 20 years. "It's one thing to be a spectator, a witness or a member of the prosecution or defense, but it's another thing to be able to actually see the testimony with your own eyes."
Banfield said since the show relies heavily on courtroom activity and the record, it's more factual and less opinionated.
"What a wonderful way to use all of this incredible tape that has built up over the decades and use it in a really responsible way to tell a story from the purest form, from the actual case itself," she said. "I can't say it enough how proud I am that we take the time to actually put eyeballs on the tens of thousands of hours of court testimony to use the parts that make the most sense to tell the viewer the story."
The first selected case is Florida v. Casey Anthony, in which Anthony was found not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child in the death of her daughter, Caylee, but was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. Banfield covered the trial while living in Orlando and recalls being perturbed by the jury selection and voir dire.
"I knew just how complicated this court battle was going to be based on what I was hearing from each of the prospective jurors. And I was very worried about the process," she said. "While they were answering all the right answers, their tone told an entirely different story. And I just remember feeling, 'Good lord, we're never going to see the jury in this case.' "
Another case that will be covered is Mark Sievers trial in South Florida, in which the jury found Sievers guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 2015 killing of his wife, Dr. Teresa Sievers, in their Bonita Springs home.
"The Mark Sievers case was one of those that really captivated the nation, and for that reason, we decided that was the kind of story that was important to highlight," Banfield said. "There is a lot of emotion in that case. It's a heartbreaking case because Mark Sievers' wife was beloved."
Banfield said it was shocking to see the case turn out to be a domestic situation that involved Mark Sievers conspiring with his best friend, Curtis Wright, to hire Jimmy Rodgers as a hitman to kill Teresa Sievers.
"I think it wasn't lost on anyone that Mark Sievers' best friend looked so much like him," she said. "It was almost eerie in court to see Sievers' friend on the stand testifying against him after having been the person who was involved in orchestrating the killing."
With Court TV's re-entry into the marketplace, Banfield said a show like this made sense, especially considering the surge in public fascination in the crime genre.
"But there is more to crime than crime. There is the justice side, and that's where we really are committed," she said. "We spend less time doing fancy production to depict the crime, and we spend more time outlining the justice."
A group of journalists, prosecutors and defense attorneys work with producers and Banfield to comb through video, compile stories and develop the weekly hour-long series.
"You can tell a story with a dramatic narrative or you can tell a story the way it really happened," Banfield said. "And we're committed to the latter, and we're using the top professionals to do so."
"Judgment with Ashleigh Banfield" airs at 8 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 13 on Court TV.