by Max Marbut
“My reception regarding Casey Anthony has not been particularly warm,” said defense attorney Ann Finnell in speaking Monday to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville at the Omni Downtown.
Finnell was part of the defense team that represented Anthony, who was acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Finnell said she has received threatening emails from senders who stated they “hope I die the same way Caylee did.”
There have been some favorable comments, said Finnell, “but we’re checking the mail for white powder.”
Finnell has been a trial lawyer for 31 years with the Fourth Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office and in private practice.
She has served on the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases and on the Criminal procedure Rules Committee.
Finnell is a former chair of the Executive Council of the Criminal Law Section of The Florida Bar and presently serves on the bar’s Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee.
She joined Anthony’s defense team in August 2010, called on for her experience in death penalty cases.
Finnell said she was contacted by a judge in Orlando who told her he thought the state didn’t have a case against Anthony.
“The reality is there really wasn’t much there,” said Finnell.
Finnell said what struck her the first time she met Casey Anthony in the Orange County Jail was how small the defendant was, particularly when she was shackled.
“Here she comes, trussed up like a Christmas turkey. She’s a tiny woman. I remember thinking ‘this is just a kid,’” said Finnell.
While the “talking heads on TV who had never met her” were declaring Anthony to be a psychopath, said Finnell, “every psychological test determined she was normal. The medical examiner could not determine the cause of death.”
She described much of the evidence as “crappy forensics.”
“There was no DNA on the duct tape (found on the victim’s skull after the body was located). It didn’t make any sense,” she said.
Finnell also criticized one of the prosecution’s expert witnesses who claimed to have invented a machine that could accurately identify the odor of human decomposition.
“He wouldn’t let anyone examine the machine and it made it into the case,” said Finnell.
Another piece of evidence offered by the state was the alleged Internet search for “chloroform” on a computer that might have been used by Anthony.
Finnell said that an hour before closing arguments in the case were scheduled to begin, it was revealed there was only one Web search hit.
“To understand why the jury acquitted her, all you have to do is look at the evidence,” said Finnell.
“The whole case was weird. I’ve never seen anything like it. We had a really cute white child who was dead. On top of that, we had a mother who was an attractive woman who couldn’t explain where her child was for 31 days,” said Finnell.
“The jury verdict, I think, was a fair one. I think the jurors went into the jury room and determined they didn’t know what happened, so they couldn’t convict her,” she said.
When asked about the legal fees involved in the case, Finnell said it’s her understanding that lead defense attorney Jose Baez “brokered the sale” of some photographs of Caylee Anthony to the news media for $200,000 early in the case.
“That was gone by the time I got there,” said Finnell.
The Orlando Sentinel reported July 20 that the defense has presented bills to the Justice Administrative Commission totaling $147,018 for expert witnesses, mental health evaluations and court-reporting services. The bill is likely to be paid by taxpayers.
As for Finnell’s professional fees, she said her law firm, Finnell, McGuinness & Nezami, paid her travel and lodging expenses for the months she worked on the case.
Beyond that, “the Florida Bar encourages pro bono work. This is my contribution,” she said.
Monday marked the 21st day of the scheduled 40-day project to reconstruct the roundabout on Laura Street at the Landing. The concrete subsurface has been completed and workers could start reinstalling the Belgian block cobblestones later this week. After the granite blocks are reset, grout will be placed between them, similar to the construction method at the other intersections along Laura Street north to Hemming Plaza.
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