Casey Anthony: ‘Tainted’ jury pool sent home for talking about case
CLEARWATER — Jury selection for the Casey Anthony trial was cut short Tuesday after Judge Belvin Perry learned that word spread in the jury pool that they could be chosen to decide the fate of the accused killer.
The judge sent home 50 jurors summoned Tuesday to the Pinellas County Courthouse, saying the day’s entire pool was tainted.
Judge Perry spent Tuesday morning finishing up questioning of Monday’s jury pool. But while Tuesday’s pool was waiting for their turn, someone mentioned Casey Anthony.
According to Judge Perry, a Texas Equusearch volunteer whose name is on the witness list was called to jury duty Tuesday at the Pinellas County Courthouse, and talked to Tuesday’s jury pool about the case.
How could a witness in an upcoming trial be called for jury duty? The judge said jurors are summoned based on their driver’s license numbers, so there was no way they could have expected that to happen.
Jury selection by the numbers
As of 2:15 p.m. Tuesday
109 jurors questioned
38 asked to return (35%)
50 new jurors to be questioned Wednesday
50 new jurors expected to be summoned Thursday
50 jurors dismissed for talking about the case
1 juror dismissed by Pinellas County chief judge for undisclosed reasons
With an entire day’s worth of potential jurors lost, Judge Perry said the selection process has now been pushed between a half day and three full days behind. He told lawyers to be prepared to come to court Saturday and the following Monday, if needed.
The judge is still working to dismiss people based on any hardships they would face is they had to spend six to eight weeks hearing the Casey Anthony trial and deciding her fate.
When that’s finished, everyone who remains will be called back and asked specific questions about the death penalty, followed by a third round of questioning about how much each juror has already been exposed to Casey Anthony from all the pretrial publicity.
But several potential jurors have already given their opinions on the case.
One woman told Judge Perry she has already prejudged Casey Anthony:
Judge: “When you mean you’ve already prejudged, have you formed an opinion about the defendant?”
Judge: “And what is your opinion?”
Another man was dismissed because he could barely understand English, and Judge Perry had to repeat his questions several times.
During Monday’s proceedings, Casey Anthony broke down into tears as Judge Perry recited the facts of the case and the charges of first-degree murder brought against the 25-year-old mother.
The judge has given the jurors stern and specific instructions not to research the case against Casey or the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Jurors may also not talk about the trial with others, or mention it on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks.
Casey has been sitting in the courtroom during the entire jury selection process. She was booked Sunday evening into the Pinellas County Jail, where she will stay until her jury is chosen.
Fight over evidence not over yet
Shortly before court broke for lunch, prosecutors told Judge Perry the FBI will hand over a list of 468 compounds associated with a report that found signs of decomposition in the trunk of Casey’s car.
The judge allowed the air samples as evidence in an order filed Monday.
But the defense said that list of compounds is not enough. Casey’s lawyers said they need to know which of the 468 compounds were present when forensic scientists performed the test on the car’s trunk lining.
After Judge Perry dismissed Tuesday’s jury pool, the defense asked for a rehearing on the scientific evidence analyzed by Dr. Arpad Vass at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory — also known as the “Body Farm.”
The judge denied that motion, but did allow the defense to re-depose Dr. Vass. That new deposition, however, must be conducted via telephone.