Perry Orders “Cooling Off Period”, Won’t Release Jurors’ Names

Attorneys for media organizations and publications filed a motion for Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. to release the names of the 12 jurors in the trial of Casey Marie Anthony. A hearing was held Thursday to discuss the issue and Perry reserved ruling allowing for a “cooling down” period before he approves or denies the motion.

Attorneys Alison Steele and Rachel Fugate address Judge Belvin Perry as the represent Florida media companies in a hearing at the Orange County Courthouse Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, July 7, 2011. The media companies are asking for the release of the names of jurors in the Casey Anthony case which concluded this week. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)

Casey’s first-degree murder trial ended on Tuesday, resulting in her acquittal that left many people angered and wondering why. She was accused of the killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, in 2008, by suffocating the toddler with duct tape placed over her nose and mouth.

Rachel Fugate represented the Orlando Sentinel, WFTV, Tampa Tribune and the Associated Press, alongside Alison Steele and Anne Arsenhault who are the attorneys for the St. Petersburg Times. They disagree with Perry concealing the names of the jurors.

The jury has expressed to the court administration that they don’t want to speak. What was supposed to be a press conference on Tuesday ended up not being so, after the jury declined to attend. “We asked each of them if they wanted or not wanted to talk and they indicated they did not want to talk,” said Perry.

One of Perry’s main concerns is the safety of the jury, constituted of five men and seven women.

“Is this court totally powerless when it comes to folks’ safety?” Perry asked rhetorically. “Some people would like to take something out on them (jurors).”

Fugate said although the safety concerns are a legitimate matter, they are “not enough to weigh in favor of essentially having an anonymous jury” because it “strikes to the very core of our judiciary and our open court system.” She said she would like the public to understand the verdict the jury has returned.

Fugate argues that while the trial was still in continuance, the jurors were sequestered in order to be ridden of any opinions provided by outsiders, but says at this point in time, there are people interested in contacting them “to ensure the legitimacy of the verdict.”

“It is the right of the public in this community to ask the question,” said Fugate.

Fugate also stated that not only do jurors have no choice to sit on trials, but witnesses are subpoenaed as well and have an obligation to face “intense public scrutiny” for opinions rendered.

“Do we now ask the citizens of Pinellas County to bare the burden of providing 24-hour protection to those individuals … How long do they do it?” Perry asked.

He explained that Pinellas County from where jurors were selected, was going through an extensive budget-cut and perhaps lacked the funds necessary to put into extra safety, especially after a 3% reduction in deputies’ and police officers’ pay was made.

Fugate and Steele expressed the urgency of collecting the names.

“My clients would like the information as quickly as possible,” Steele said. “It’s already been two days.”

A juror was interviewed already by the St. Petersburg Times but, anonymously. An alternate Russell Huekler has already spoken out to networks, along with juror number three, Jennifer Ford.

In an interview with ABC news, Huekler said he agreed with the not guilty verdict of his fellow jurors. “There was so much reasonable doubt,” Huekler said. “The prosecution did not present the evidence that showed that Caylee had been murdered. They didn’t show a motive.”

Ford came forth Wednesday and expressed in an interview with Dateline that the jurors were “sick to their stomach with the verdict,” because they felt not enough proof was provided to convict Casey of murder.

Juror number six is asking for $50,000 to be interviewed, but it is unknown if any networks have made any offers.

At the end of the trial, it was learned that the jury had been sequestered at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel on Universal Blvd. in Orlando for the six-and-a-half week stay in the city. The chief of due process services for the Orange County Courthouse said the hotel met their needs for this high profile case, including state rates, security and flexibility.

“The hotel was willing to accomdate the Court’s needs by housing the jurors in designated areas and restricting certain channels at no extra cost,” Levey said. “Also, the hotel’s dining areas were able to guarantee the jurors’ privacy during their extended stay.”

Perry decided not to give approval or disproval of the motion, as of yet.

“There are some people who have exercised their right … Their right to privacy; that they want to be left alone,” he asserted. “That’s where I find myself in a quandary.”

“Let the emotions simmer down,” Perry concluded.

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