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Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017
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Casey Anthony jurors named, but no one's talking

CLEARWATER - In July, immediately after finding Casey Anthony not guilty of killing her daughter, a jury from Pinellas County declined to meet with the media to talk about the case. After more than three months of secrecy, it's still not known what those jurors were thinking. The names of the 12 Pinellas County jurors who cleared the Orlando mother in a controversial verdict were released this morning, along with the identities of the five alternates. But no one seems to be talking. Reporters knocking on the doors of the jurors and alternates, or calling their houses, found no jurors willing to talk, or no jurors at all. Some had moved, neighbors said. One woman answering the door at a Palm Harbor condominium was exasperated and said she had no connection to anyone on the jury.
John Fitzgibbons, a defense attorney in Tampa, said he was not surprised by the lack of juror availability. "In a case like this with all of the attention, it is not surprising at all the jurors may decline to discuss the case," he said. "I can't blame the jurors for not wanting to talk." Fitzgibbons said jurors may just want their privacy and want to be left alone. Or, he said, they may have some type of group agreement to do an interview collectively. Or there could be another reason, he added. "Because of the hostile reaction by some people to the verdict, they may not want to inflame some of those people by commenting," the attorney said. The identities were provided by court officials in Pinellas and Orange counties. The move comes after a cooling-off period provided by Judge Belvin Perry Jr. to allow the public outcry over the verdicts to subside. Those who served on the panel were Joan Meier, Raymond Screen, Linda Bills, Harriet White, Brian Berling, Kimberly Kimball, Kathleen Nighland, James Kearns, Ronald Robertson, David Angelo, Mary Fuhr and Jennifer Ford. The alternates were Elizabeth Jones, Heather Feuerhake, Craig Neuendorf, Russell Huekler and Dean-Edward Echstadt. Berling's father, Patrick Berling, declined to comment on his son's behalf. Fitzgibbons said the collective unavailability of jurors suggest they may have been communicating with one another after the trial. "All of the jurors knew this day would be coming," he said. "It wasn't like it was a surprise. They have had plenty of time to contemplate what they are going to do and make a decision. This was not a hasty decision." The husband of alternate Jones answered the door at their home in Clearwater. He said she was at work. "I'll leave your card with the pile here," Mike Jones told an Associated Press reporter. "But I don't think she is going to want to talk." He added that since she didn't deliberate, "she doesn't have a whole lot to say." Ford, Huekler and Echstadt's names were not released by the court, but they had been interviewed by the media after the trial. Juror names normally are public record immediately after a trial concludes. But Perry sealed the names of the Anthony jury to protect the safety of the panel picked in Pinellas County. "It is no big secret that some people disagree with their verdict," Perry said at a July court hearing where media attorneys, including those representing The Tampa Tribune, sought release of the names. "Do you realize there are people out there who want to do crazy things?" he asked. "Some people would like to take something out on them. I'm concerned about the individual who may want to fillet someone and what he might do." The jury cleared Anthony on July 5 of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse in the death of her daughter, Caylee, in 2008. Her only convictions in an Orlando courtroom came on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement. The verdicts brought a huge outcry from across Florida and the nation. Anthony was released from jail later in July. Ford, who said she regretted serving on the jury, said prosecutors did not present enough evidence to convict Anthony, and that jurors were "sick to their stomachs" after voting to acquit. She also said she had not even heard about the case before the two-week selection process in Clearwater in May. "If I knew then what I know now, I might not have been so honest," Ford said after the trial. "I didn't know the whole world was watching and that everyone had their mind made up on what the verdict was. I didn't understand the magnitude of it." Ford said in July she blamed the media for much of what has happened after the verdict that led to much anger and many protests. "I think the media helped them to determine what their thoughts are," she said. "I think the media helped to determine the case before the jury saw it." Fitzgibbons said the jury shouldn't be faulted for its verdict. "A jury listens to the evidence within the four walls of the courtroom," he said, "and makes a decision on the evidence and not by what a talk show host or the mob thinks. "The jurors deal with the cards they are dealt," Fitzgibbons added. "Anybody that analyzed the evidence in court can conclude it was an overcharged case without even a cause of death. That is fundamental to the successful prosecution of any homicide case, let alone a death penalty case."

Reporter Stephen Thompson contributed to this report. [email protected] (813) 259-7999
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