ORLANDO, Fla. – Over 12 years ago, Casey Anthony walked out of the Orange County jail a free woman.
Much of the country watched her murder trial play out on live TV, including the moment the jury found her not guilty, but there were some things happening behind the scenes that you didn’t see.
The judge at the center of it all, Belvin Perry, joined the hosts of Florida’s Fourth Estate to share the experience from his perspective.
This includes his thoughts on how Anthony’s defense team was able to get her acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee Anthony.
“Jose Baez, at the time, probably wasn’t the sharpest person on the evidence code, but he was well prepared, and he did something that good lawyers do,” Perry said. “Once you determine the makeup of the 12 people in that jury, he tailored his case to fit them. It’s just like a great football coach. You go into any game with a gameplan, but you must make adjustments and Baez made those adjustments and he learned how to play to the jury.”
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The jury was made up of seven women and five men who had to be sequestered for the full length of the trial.
Perry said it was a lot of work dealing with a case that would last six to eight weeks with jurors that had to be holed up in a hotel room, but added that the Central Florida community helped to lighten the load.
He said the media agreed on the best way to cover the trial and when they found out the jury was staying at Rosen Shingle Creek, “they did not publish it, we had no problem with them following jurors.”
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He said Harris Rosen also bent over backward to make sure the jurors were well taken care of while being sequestered.
“Harris Rosen was just tremendous when we talked to him,” Perry said. “He gave us an excellent deal on the rooms, gave us everything we wanted — even structured the meal prices to fit into the per diem, which is unheard of. They even changed the locks on the doors on the stairwell on the floor that they were on you couldn’t access it from the outside.”
Perry said there were also times when the pool and exercise facilities were shut down so the jurors could use them uninterrupted.
The TVs were also adjusted so the jurors could not watch news shows. Towards the end of the trial, with so many people interested in the case, Perry said the jurors were down to only three channels they could watch.
To better cater to the jury, Perry said each one was allowed to have one visitor on the weekends.
“They could come on Saturday afternoons, they just had to be out by midnight,” Perry said.
The judge had to deal with some fallout from the trial as well. That includes becoming, what felt like, an overnight celebrity.
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“One day we got out of court and for whatever reason I went by Ross on Michigan and I went in there and I was looking for a picture frame,” Perry said. “When I got home my daughter called me. She said, ‘Daddy someone recorded you in Ross and they posted it on Facebook.’”
It didn’t end there. Perry said people approached him about the case everywhere he went. Once, a group of people even started recording him while he was eating dinner.
“I had to stop going to the grocery store. If I did go eat, I had to eat at certain places where I could be left alone. I couldn’t go anywhere,” he said.
Still, he said the trial was a great experience for himself and the community.
“I think it opened up to the world how the judicial system works,” Perry said. “You got a chance to see firsthand. Most people didn’t agree with the outcome of the case, but at least they saw what happened and I think it is very important that courts that are open to the public, that the public gets to see it firsthand.”
To hear more about Perry’s experience serving as the judge on the Casey Anthony murder trial check out Florida’s Fourth Estate.
You can watch it on Mondays and Fridays at 3:30 p.m. on News 6 or anytime on News 6+.
You can also download it from wherever you listen to podcasts.