October 25, 2011

After a three-month cooling-off period, Judge Belvin Perry released the names today of the jurors who found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. Perry temporarily sealed the names out of concern for the jurors’ safety. At the time, he also expressed concern that broadcasts of court proceedings had become a form of entertainment rather than a public service. In his ruling sealing the names, Perry wrote:

Florida’s public records laws were never intended to further the media’s (as opposed to now old-fashioned news organization’s) bottom line. … Unquestionably, use of Florida public records laws by the media (in general and not just intervenors here) has become simply a tool to sell a story. It is time that Florida’s public records laws recognize this fact and steps be taken to examine whether the laws are too broad and whether the release of certain information is causing more harm…

At the time, attorney Alison Steele, who argued for the release of jurors’ names on behalf of the St. Petersburg Times, said by phone:

It’s explosive for a judge of this caliber to say the entire public records scheme in the history of Florida needs to be reconsidered because of this extremely extraordinary circumstance.

Steele, who also represents The Poynter Institute, which owns the Times, said that “extraordinary cases make bad law.”

Related: Cyberwarriors ready to boycott NBC on rumors the network’s arranging an interview/book deal for Anthony (The Daily Beast) | As media seek Casey Anthony jurors’ names, ‘they cannot remain anonymous forever’ (Poynter.org) | ABC News has paid $215,000 for Casey Anthony scoops (Poynter.org)

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Julie Moos (jmoos@poynter.org) has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
Julie Moos

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