ORLANDO -- For weeks, prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Casey Anthony trial have built toward today’s s final bid to sway the jury that will decide the guilt or innocence of the woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie.
That fact was not lost on those who hoped to be in the audience for the closing arguments.
On Friday, trial watchers again waited hours, this time for a chance to see the presentations in person.
“That’s why I wanted to come here,” said Jennifer Murphy of Kissimmee. Murphy has been in the courtroom before but said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the closings.
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“I’d like to see the prosecution slam the defense,” said Murphy, a self-described stay-at-home mom. “They promised, and they didn’t deliver.”
After weeks of testimony and analysis, many of those who frequent the line for trial tickets have become amateur legal experts, with personal affinities for the players in the case they find most compelling.
Anna Goedeck of Ocala turned heads Friday when she waited in line sporting a “Team Ashton” T-shirt.
“I love Jeff Ashton,” she said, “I think he’s a fabulous prosecutor.”
For Flora Reece, there was a practical reason wait in line for a seat. A law student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Reece said Sunday should be educational.
“This is historical,” she said, “and I can talk about it in my law classes.”
Still, she said she’ll be glad when the case is over; following it has been a bit too time-consuming. “I’m so captivated by it,” she said.
Reece, who was maybe a third of the way back in line, had to wait about eight hours to maintain that position. The closer to the front you were, the more mind-numbing the wait times got.
Ronald and Regina Williamson of Orlando got in line about 5:30 a.m. Friday and were signed up for tickets just after 4 p.m. “It was worth it,” Regina Williamson said. “It was well worth it.”
“I just want to learn exactly what the state’s closing is going to be,” said Ronald Williamson. Today will be the couple’s second time in the courtroom.
Casey trial in person
Every day when they leave for lunch, the major figures in the trial are greeted by a crowd. But only some of the people snapping photos and asking questions of Jose Baez, Jeff Ashton and the others are members of the media.
The rest are a group of hyper-dedicated trial watchers. Not content to tune in on television in the comfort of their homes, they have made it their mission to experience the trial live and in person.
Those who follow the case closely have made the Orange County Courthouse their home away from home. They cite a number of reasons why, the most common of which is also the most obvious.
“We just want to know that happened to Caylee,” said Lori Polk, a regional training coordinator for a restaurant chain who had been in the courtroom five times by Thursday.
But Polk’s reasons go beyond that. The case is important, she said, both because a young life was lost and because the trial has become “a mystery” and a “part of our culture.”
Polk said that one of the key differences between watching the trial at home and watching in person is the ability to see the jury. Media have been barred from photographing or videotaping jurors in the case.
Going in person, said trial watcher Phil Groot, allows you to “see what they look like, see if they’re sitting at the edge of their seat.” That, Groot said, gives insight into the mind-set of the jurors.
Groot is a New Jersey physical therapist who has flown into Orlando twice in three weeks to see the trial. He said he is fascinated by cutting-edge forensic-investigation methods, such as those on display in this case.
He often watches television shows that showcase criminal cases, such as “48 Hours Mystery.” When he read online that the public could have access to the Anthony trial, Groot booked a flight.
For locals such as Lisa Wallrich, being in the courtroom is a way to connect with the players in the case on a personal level.
“It’s amazing to see them in the courtroom,” Wallrich said of Casey Anthony’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony. She sat so near to them during one of her two days in the courtroom that she could hear them talking.
Asked what drew her to the case, Sarah Shaffer, who was at the trial for the first time Thursday, said she felt awful for George, Cindy and Lee Anthony. “I wanted to come in person to show my support, because I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”