Early Tuesday morning, the Pinellas County Clerk's Office released the names of the jurors in one of the country's most highly-publicized cases, the Casey Anthony murder trial. The case was so well known that jurors had to be picked in Pinellas County, more than 100 miles away from the trial in Orlando.
In a bombshell verdict July 5, the Pinellas County jury acquitted Anthony in the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. The six-week trial was televised and followed by people across the country, many of whom were angered when the verdict was announced.
Fearing for the jurors' safety, Orange-Osceola County Judge Belvin Perry ordered a three-month cooling-off period before allowing the courts to release the jurors' names, which are usually public record in Florida. In his order, Perry said some jurors had received threats after the verdict was announced. NBC News reported that one juror was so fearful, she quit her job and moved out of state. Here in Pinellas County, one restaurant put a sign on its window saying, "Pinellas County Jurors NOT Welcome!!!"
The three-month cooling-off period ended today, and Judge Perry's strategy appears to have worked.
Sgt. Tom Nestor of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office told Palm Harbor Patch that the jurors have not contacted the sheriff's office with concerns about their safety. "None of the jurors that we're aware of have received any threats at all," he said. Nestor says that if jurors were threatened, it most likely happened in Orlando.
Until today, we've had descriptions of the jurors but have not known their names. Palm Harbor Patch has received the list of jurors from the Pinellas County Clerk's Office, and we're in the process of contacting the jury members to see if they would like to tell their stories. Of course, we'll share their stories with you.
One juror has already spoken to the media anonymously, and three others have released their names, including Palm Harbor's Dean Eckstadt, who served as an alternate juror. "We are upset that people think we're incompetent," Eckstadt said on the Today show. "We made the decision on the law. You can't have emotion in the situation, and I think that came down to the final decision."
Alternate juror Russell Huekler of St. Petersburg was the first to speak about the case, telling ABC he thought the Anthony family was dysfunctional. He said if Caylee's death was a horrific accident, they didn't know how to deal with it and chose to hide it for some reason.
Juror No. 3, Jennifer Ford, a nursing student at St. Petersburg College, also spoke to the media about her experience. "I'm not convinced that she didn't do it, but I also couldn't exclude the possibility that it was an accident," she said.
Juror No. 2 spoke to the St. Petersburg Times anonymously, saying he wanted to keep his family safe from scrutiny. The juror is a 46-year-old married father of two and is one of two black people on the jury. He said the verdict was not an easy decision to make and he wished the jury had more evidence to put Anthony away, but the evidence wasn't there.
Anthony was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement and was released from the Orange County Jail on July 17 with credit for time she had already served. The Pinellas County jury found Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter or aggravated child abuse.
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