Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. said Thursday that he will make public the names of the Pinellas County jurors in the Casey Anthony trial — but not anytime soon.
Instead, in an Orlando hearing, he told attorneys for several news organizations that he will unseal the names after a "cooling off period" of seven days.
Case law says that, under unusual circumstances, a judge can withhold jurors' names for about a week. Their names could be released early next week. But the judge didn't say when the clock started on that period.
The St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press were among the news organizations challenging his decision to keep the names sealed after the end of the high-profile trial.
The judge said he has traditionally released the names of jurors, but the Casey Anthony case has given him pause.
The jury's decision to find the mother not guilty of the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, has sparked an outpouring of public criticism and intense media interest. Perry said he is concerned about the jurors' privacy and safety.
"It is no big secret that some people disagree with their verdict," he said. "Some people would like to take something out on them."
An example of the ire: The owner of a Skyline Chili restaurant in Clearwater put up a handwritten sign on the front door: "Pinellas County jurors NOT welcome!!!" It has since been taken down.
The judge said that before the jurors could even leave the courthouse after Tuesday's verdict, they and their families were being contacted by news organizations.
Some were "staking out their houses" and "following them around," Perry said.
St. Petersburg Times attorney Alison Steele argued that the First Amendment protects the public's right to access information, and that includes information on criminal trials. The public and the press have the right to know who everyone in a courtroom is: lawyers, witnesses and jurors. There are very few exceptions, she said.
Concerns about the jury's safety, Steele said, must be balanced by the need to keep the courts open and accountable.
"These fears must be balanced against the loss of public confidence in the system," she said. "Having justice decided by unknown persons does not comport with democratic values."
Only two jurors have spoken publicly: Juror No. 2, who did not want his name to be revealed, spoke to the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday. That night, Jennifer Ford, Juror No. 3, spoke to ABC News.
She is the only juror to make her name public.
A third juror, No. 6, has reportedly offered to speak to media organizations for a fee, according to the website TMZ.com.
Times staff writer Katie Park contributed to this report.