Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Casey Anthony: The Cult of Infamy

As soon as the Casey Anthony trial ended with a surprise verdict from a Pinellas County jury, word got out that one of the jurors wanted to sell his story for as much as $50,000.

State Rep. Scott Randolph wants to make that a felony.

The Orlando lawmaker has filed a bill in the Florida House that would prevent jurors from profiting from their service for at least nine months.

"We don't want jurors during jury selection thinking about profits," Randolph said. "Or thinking about that in the jury deliberation room as well. It's just trying to take away that financial incentive so there are no shenanigans in the jury room."

In other words, he said, he doesn't want jurors wondering if an acquittal could be worth more to them than a guilty verdict. Or vice versa.

Jennifer Ford, one of the jurors who helped clear Anthony in the controversial case, said she thinks it's a good proposal.

"I don't think there should be profit off someone else's misfortune," said Ford, who said she was not paid for an interview she did after the trial with ABC's network news.

"The only thing I got out of that was an ulcer," she said.

Randolph, a Democrat in his third term, wants to make sure that is the case.

He said he's not trying to say that jurors can't talk to the media. He just doesn't want them to get paid for it.

"Jurors can talk to the media," he said. "We are not suppressing free speech."

John Goldsmith, a Tampa attorney who specializes in constitutional challenges, disagrees.

"I do think there is a free speech issue here," he said.

"I think there is a very good chance that a court could come down on finding that it is unconstitutional," Goldsmith said. "I think if it's challenged, there is a reasonable chance it would be struck down."

Though not contained in House Bill 51, Randolph also is considering a proposal that would keep the names of jurors secret for nine months.

In most cases, those names are made public after a trial concludes. But in the Anthony case, Judge Belvin Perry Jr. has sealed the names of the jurors, citing fears for their safety.

Attorneys for The Tampa Tribune and other media outlets have tried to intervene in that aspect of the case. No ruling has come down from Perry, who at a hearing nearly two weeks ago indicated he might release the names after a cooling-off period.

"We don't want juror deliberations to be influenced by any feelings of potential threats to them or their families," Randolph said.

After the Anthony verdicts, in which she was cleared of first-degree murder and other felony charges, there was much outrage on the streets of Orlando and across the nation.

Some people talked about seeking justice and revenge against the 25-year-old woman, and even against the members of the jury.

"It just seems we live in such an angry society these days," Randolph said. "I am extremely concerned about future jury deliberations when you see these kinds of reactions. We don't want a jury tainted by fear of personal harm."


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