ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The names of the Casey Anthony jurors are public, yet the reason they acquitted her is still largely unknown.
Jurors were either unavailable or didn’t want to talk to the media Tuesday when a judge released their names, three months after they found Anthony not guilty in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. In the days since the verdict, Anthony and the jurors received death threats and angry messages were posted online. Many people across the nation thought the jurors let a guilty woman go free.
Anthony went into hiding, and it appears jurors have done the same thing.
Associated Press reporters went to the homes where jurors were thought to live, but in most cases, the blinds or drapes were closed and no one answered. Dogs could be heard barking inside some of the homes. When someone did come to the door, they said the juror didn’t want to speak or in one case, said the juror didn’t live there.
“The jurors have known that this day would be coming for a long time. They’ve had plenty of time to think about it,” said Tampa defense attorney John Fitzgibbons, who was not involved in the Anthony case. “It may simply be that the jurors want to move on from this case. Or it could be some sort of collective decision by the jurors if they are working on something else jointly.”
Fearing for their safety, Judge Belvin Perry delayed releasing their names, saying he wanted a “cooling off period” to pass. It may have worked. Vitriolic comments popped up online Tuesday, but in far less numbers.
Legal experts said Perry’s decision was reasonable, but highly unusual.
“I can’t recall another situation like this, but I think in this case it was necessary,” said Leslie Garfield, law professor at Pace Law School in New York. “… You ask people to serve the justice system, but in situations like this there has to be protection for these people. We have to try to protect them somehow.”
Anthony was accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in June 2008. After extensive searches for the little girl, her body turned up about six months later in woods near Casey’s parents’ home in Orlando.
Prosecutors said that Anthony — a single mother living with her parents — suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to party at nightclubs and spend time with her boyfriend.
But prosecutors could never say with certainty how Caylee died and defense lawyers successfully cast enough doubt on their case.
Anthony was convicted of lying to investigators who were searching for Caylee and released from jail for time served about two weeks after the trial ended. She is serving probation on an unrelated check fraud charge at an undisclosed location in Florida.
John Nighland, husband of juror Kathleen Nighland, spoke to The Associated Press by telephone. He said his wife wasn’t interested in talking about the verdict. When asked how she has been since the trial, he said: “She’s doing well. She’s doing well.”
The husband of alternate juror Elizabeth Jones answered the door at their home and said she was at work.
“I’ll leave your card with the pile here,” Mike Jones said. “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.”
A few of the jurors spoke with various media outlets immediately after the trial, but none went into extensive details about their deliberations or the public’s reaction to their decision.
The jury foreman, David W. Angelo, told Fox News Channel in July: “We don’t know the cause of death, and that was one of the major issues that we had and one of the major issues that we had to address. We don’t know the cause of death. Everything was speculation.”
Russell Huekler, one of the alternate jurors, was not involved in the deliberations but sat through more than 33 days of testimony.
“I’m sure they looked at the law and the evidence that was presented and unfortunately, the prosecution didn’t meet their burden of proof,” he told AP after the verdict.