Jose Baez was notorious during the Casey Anthony trial for two things: fiercely protecting his client and saying very little to the media.
The lead defense attorney on the high-profile case would walk briskly into the Orange County Courthouse each day, briefcase in hand, and give a quick smile to anxious reporters.
Three months later, Baez broke his silence by coming out today and speaking firsthand with only one television station in the Bay area, WTSP-TV.
The Orlando-based attorney said he had a message for Pinellas County jurors.
Two words: “Thank you.”
Baez said he wished he could reach out to the Pinellas jurors personally, but it would be an ethics violation. After the jurors’ names were released Tuesday morning, Baez admonished members of the media for seeking out the men and women who served on the case.
“They made their decision,” he said, speaking in front of his office in Kissimmee. “Let it go already.”
As for the media frenzy surrounding the jurors’ identities, Baez said he was disappointed and disgusted with the way the media was hunting down jurors and publishing their names.
“I think it’s absurd. They didn’t ask to be jurors. They were picked.”
Judge Belvin Perry issued a “cooling-off” period right after the trial, saying that the jurors’ names would not be released for three months.
Jurors were given the opportunity to speak with members of the media minutes after the verdict was announced. The press conference was scheduled in a private room in the Orange County Courthouse, just feet away from the actual courtroom. It was going to be an organized, closely-monitored press conference where reporters questions would be handled in a certain order, and each person could only ask one question.
The jurors declined to answer any questions. Instead, they were driven back to Pinellas County in a unmarked, white van, presumably so no one would know who they were.
In the following days after the not-guilty verdict, only a select few spoke. The remaining jurors either refused to give an interview or hired an agent and then demanded five-figure offers from any interested parties.
Pinellas nursing student Jennifer Ford spoke early on about the case, talking about the difficult job jurors had.
“We cried when we made our decision,” she said. “It was not easy for us.”
Baez would not give any comment today about his client, who is currently hiding out and serving her one-year probation on check fraud charges. “I am only talking about the jurors,” he said.
Baez said the members of the jury need to be treated with respect and dignity and that reporters should not be knocking on their doors. “I think it’s outrageous,” he told 10 News. “Let’s move forward, not backward.”
As for the safety of the jurors, 10 News spoke with both the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Petersburg Police Department. Both agencies have the jurors’ names and addresses and have not received any additional requests for security.
The St. Petersburg Police Department admits it has been monitoring the safety of the jurors ever since the trial, but would not go into detail about specific precautions taken.
Baez was on his way to Harvard Law School on Tuesday night to speak with students. Before he left, he was asked if he read reports online about his client. He joked, “The only thing I pay attention to online is news about the Seminoles and the Yankees.”
And, as far as the safety of the jurors, he said, “I wish I could buy all of them pit bulls. They deserve to be safe. I don’t want this to stop anyone from wanting to serve on a jury in the future.”