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Local lawyers mixed in view of Casey Anthony trial’s outcome

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Local prosecutors, criminal attorneys and public defenders have watched the Casey Anthony trial with special interest. Many gathered around televisions and computers for the verdict Tuesday in the case that has captivated the country.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Meadows, who is currently working on two local cases involving the deaths of children, joined others in her office to listen as the verdict was read.

"We've been awaiting the verdict, and everyone was somewhat surprised. I thought they had a compelling case," Meadows said. "We watched the commentary, the talking heads that thought the jury bought into the prosecution's case.

"But we say all the time juries are unpredictable and this case just illustrates that."

Tera Salango, assistant prosecutor and a mother, admitted she has been addicted to the trial coverage like so many others.

"You have a little girl who's killed, it's so unthinkable that a mother could do that to her child," Salango said.

"So many of us in the office watched some of the testimony and followed it as much as we could," she said. "Today all of us hovered around waiting for a verdict and there was shock in our group.

"A lot of us agreed that the prosecutor's case as far as premeditated murder was much more difficult," she said. "But we would have thought at least she'd be convicted of aggravated murder.

Salango said she was impressed with all of the attorneys, but mostly with the prosecutor.

"In her rebuttal she said, 'Who benefited the most from Caylee's death?' then put up a picture of the mother partying in a club days after child died.

"I can't imagine any mother truly grieving a child would behave that way," Salango said, echoing the thoughts of many who viewed news coverage of the trial.

"There were so many bits of doubt in all aspects of the case," she said. "I hope some of the jurors will talk later about their decision."

Maryclaire Akers, chief of staff at the prosecutor's office, was out of town when the verdict came in. But it didn't keep her from watching.  

"They came to their own independent conclusion," Akers said. "I am surprised. There was compelling forensic evidence. It tells volumes that she didn't report her child missing for a substantially long period of time.

"The pictures of her partying were not good," Akers said. "And that also lends credence to the prosecution's theory that she knew what happened and was going to live it up.

"Something happened in the juror's minds and they were not swayed by that," Akers said. "And they were not swayed by Nancy Grace squawking.

"I thought that prosecutor on the case was absolutely brilliant," she said. "They did a great job and put on the best case they could.

"I work in the system. I have the utmost respect for the judicial system and respect the verdict of the jury," Akers said. "The only people who know what happened in that courtroom are the jurors, attorneys and judge.

Akers said she is reading a book on the kinds of cases that have gotten such sensational treatment and capture the American attention.

"Casey Anthony looks like the girl next door," she said. "She comes from an involved family; there's adorable Caylee. It's one of those crimes Americans think could happen right down the street from them.

Richard Holicker, an attorney with the Kanawha County Public Defender's Office, said he watched all of the closing arguments and a lot of the 33 days of trial. Although not impressed with the defense attorney, he felt the state did not prove its case of first-degree murder against the young Orlando mother.  

"I don't know all the details, but the burden was on the state to prove its case to every juror beyond a reasonable doubt," said Holicker. "And obviously every juror was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt."

Local attorney Ed Rebrook, who does a lot of criminal defense work, said he was surprised by the verdict, and couldn't help but remember the Putnam County murder trial of Michael Merrifield, accused of killing Logan Goodall.  

"He was convicted of the murder of a three-year-old boy. There was no evidence in that trial that he killed him," Rebrook said. "When a child is murdered a jury is going to convict someone, even if it's an innocent person.

Rebrook said that after listening to testimony in the Casey Anthony trial involving duct tape on the child's head and computer searches for chloroform, he was "very, very surprised" that Anthony wasn't convicted.

"I thought they'd convict her of felony murder at least," Rebrook said. "But the state could not prove the means or method of death so it was all speculation.

"They were trying to get the jury to convict because she went out and partied and had sex with strangers," he said. "But I think the jury really listened to the instructions and did what they should have done.

Rebrook said within his law office, interest was keen in the trial.

"They all hated the defense attorney," he said. "I thought he was abrasive. But both sides tried to play games with that judge. And he was patient, more than he should have been."

Troy Giatras, another local criminal attorney, has also followed the case carefully and was on hand for the verdict.

"We were huddled around the computer and it was reminiscent of the OJ Simpson trial," he said.

"The television coverage got viewers thinking it was an open and shut case," Giatras said. "It really began to play out in the last few days, with the defense team bringing out evidence that was not in the public domain.

"As we watched around the table, most everyone in here said it's going to be guilty, she deserves it," Giatras said. "I held out, and said we only heard what television telling us. The jury heard the actual evidence.

"And it was shock and surprise when it went contrary to public perception," he said. "But the jury heard everything for 33 days. They were sequestered and not influenced by the papers, the TV. They heard the evidence, not the highlights.

"They heard the best case for the state and best case for the defense," Giatras said. "It's hard to argue they did the wrong job. Against what measure?

"There's a lot of disdain and outrage right now," he said. "There will still be a segment of the population that will be saying she did it and she beat it.

She spent three years in jail with no bond. There's still a baby dead and no killer or cause of death," Giatras said. "This could be the kind of case that in five, 10, 15 years somebody's bragging and it could all be opened again."

Giatras said he respects the jury.

"When you are trying to put someone to death, there are old fashioned ways and new fangled ways," he said, referring to the science relating to the "smell" theory in the car.

"But you have to be really certain," he said. "You would want it to work that way if you were in her seat. That the jury would listen to the evidence and decide."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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