Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Why the names of the Casey Anthony jurors are important to you

Leave the jurors alone.

In the frenzied aftermath of Casey Anthony's not guilty verdict, you heard it again and again: Why should the media have the right to know who jurors are, even in a case unlike any other?

The Anthony trial was certainly that. The jurors' first clue to how strange this would be came when they were selected in Pinellas and whisked off to Orlando. Interest in the infamous mother accused of murdering her little girl there was that intense.

Normally when a trial is over, a judge thanks the jurors for their service (six weeks of it, in this case) and tells them they are normal folk again, free to talk about it or not, their choice.

Yes, some highly emotional, highly publicized trials evoke strong reaction, and we have criminal laws on the books to keep people, including jurors, from being harassed.

But Circuit Judge Belvin Perry also took the unusual move of keeping jurors' names sealed, citing people's unhappiness with their verdict. And given the angry reaction to Anthony's acquittal, maybe the seven-day "cooling off period" the judge announced before the names will be released is not unreasonable.

But people still wanted to know: Why do reporters need to know who the jurors are, ever?

The media took a hit in this case, particularly for some national pretrial coverage. In our midst, we have some talking heads short on fact and long on opinion. We have scorched-earth reporters and even a British tabloid, it is alleged, that hacked the voice mails of dead soldiers' relatives and more. But no matter what you do for a paycheck, there will always be people you wish would not count themselves as members of your tribe.

So why do we need to know the jurors' names? First off, because everyone should always want government's hands where we can see them.

When any part of our system does business in secret — spending, hiring, even trying court cases — you can bet someone within that system will one day find a way to corrupt it, to get a little something for himself, because hey, who's watching? Corners are cut, bribes taken and deals made in the dark. Imagine you could never discover that a juror was an old friend of the prosecutor or an ex-employee of the defense. Courthouse corruption does not exist only in John Grisham beach-reads.

Over the years I've approached jurors who did not want to talk and interviewed jurors eager to explain. It's enlightening to hear how certain testimony, lawyerly tactics or witness demeanor played in the jury room. Jurors talk a lot about evidence they wished they had seen. And jurors who voted not guilty often said they definitely did not mean innocent, that the defendant might be guilty, probably was guilty, but they followed the law as instructed anyway.

Even with their names still sealed, one juror went on national TV after the Anthony verdict, her name and face in full public view. And another reportedly offered to speak to reporters for money. (Maybe that's one the jury tribe would kick off their island.)

Another talked to the Times. He did not want his name used, but he sounded like he wanted people to understand. "I wish we had more evidence to put her away," he said. "I truly do." And in a case that had the public clamoring for answers, we learned something about what happened in that jury room. That's why we ask.

Why the names of the Casey Anthony jurors are important to you 07/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 8:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs


    CHICAGO — Yu Darvish pitched into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Taylor hits a home run Tuesday during the third inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. [Associated Press]
  2. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  3. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears


    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  5. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse


    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …