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Judge delays release of Casey Anthony juror names

/ Source: staff and news service reports

The identities of most of the jurors who served in the Casey Anthony murder trial will remain private until at least Oct. 25, according to a ruling made Tuesday by the judge in the case.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that Chief Judge Belvin Perry said in his 12-page ruling that he considered the safety and the well-being of the jurors in making his decision. Usually juror names become public in Florida as soon as a verdict is rendered.

But the Anthony case drew national attention and the jury's decision on July 5 to acquit the Florida mother of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee sparked an intense reaction and outrage among some.

Perry noted the large crowd gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse immediately after the verdict. "Many, if not all, were outraged and distressed by the verdict, and were not hesitant to show their contempt for the jurors," Perry wrote in his ruling.

Perry said he wanted to implement a three-month "cooling off" period before making the names of 14 of the 17 jurors public. Others have already spoken to the media.

Perry noted "the jurors themselves were essentially voiceless" regarding the release of their names, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"No one spoke for the jurors and no one provided evidence concerning the jurors' safety or privacy concerns," the judge wrote. "No one argued the public policy consequences of releasing juror information.

After the verdict, five media companies, including The Associated Press, asked for the release of the names. One of the attorneys for the media companies told the AP Tuesday that no immediate decision had been on how to proceed.

In another development Tuesday, an Orlando man was sent to jail for violating rules designed to manage the large crowds drawn to the courthouse during her murder trial.

Mark Schmidter, a 64-year-old roofing contractor, was found guilty of two counts of indirect criminal contempt for handing out leaflets on June 29 seeking to sway members of juries and for doing so outside of specially marked "free speech zones" created for Anthony protesters and supporters.

Perry sentenced Schmidter to 151 days in jail after a brief trial.

Schmidter's lawyer, Adam Sudbury, said his client belongs to a group that believes in jury nullification, or jury pardon, which occurs when jurors decide to find someone not guilty because they believe the underlying charge is unfair.

Sudbury told Reuters that Schmidter had been handing out brochures regularly at the courthouse front door since 2010, and did not encounter the Anthony jury which, under tight security, did not use the front door.

"This has everything to do with he got wrapped up in the circus that was the Casey Anthony trial. He got swept up in the whirlwind rather than he sought out the whirlwind," Sudbury said.

Sudbury said the special restrictions on free speech during the Anthony trial were "highly unusual," sweeping and confusing. The attorney said he would appeal the verdict against Schmidter and seek bail for his client in the meantime.