Almost a year ago, the jury returned its verdict: not guilty. The most high-profile trial of the Internet age ended with Casey Anthony acquitted of murdering her daughter, 2-year-old Caylee Marie.
The trial was a legal spectacle that captivated the nation. People trekked to Orlando from out of state and waited hours for the opportunity to sit in the courtroom for a day's testimony.
<b><a href="http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/caylee-anthony">See complete coverage of the Casey Anthony verdict anniversary and case</a></b>
Hundreds roared in outrage outside the courthouse as the verdict was read July 5. After deliberating for 11 hours, a jury from Pinellas County had come to a conclusion vastly different from the one rendered in the court of public opinion.
Within days, Anthony was free and immediately went into hiding. A year later, her location — and her future — remains a mystery.
For the key players, the case was a life-altering experience. <a href="http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-where-are-they-now-players-in-the-casey-anthony-case-20120628,0,1342823.photogallery">See photos of the key players</a>
"It's just a little surreal how much things have changed since July and how many things haven't changed."
That was Casey Anthony, in a video-diary made in October and leaked to the public in January. It was the first time we had heard her speak since her acquittal. Despite the verdict, many still presume Anthony guilty.
Anthony remains in hiding for fear of her safety. Speculation has swirled about where, in Florida, she has been living. News reports have linked her to various television and book deals that either fell apart or never existed.
Anthony's probation records document a little about her life post-trial: She's unemployed, has no money and has at times been in therapy.
The public knows Anthony is in Florida only because she's on probation in a check-fraud conviction unrelated to her daughter's death. When that ends in August, she'll be free.
Will we see her again? It's possible. Anthony was recently subpoenaed to come back to Orange County and appear in a civil trial in January — one of three lawsuits she currently faces in connection with Caylee's death.
Beyond that, her future is undefined, even those close to her admit.
"Who's going to hire her?" Anthony's attorney Cheney Mason told the Sentinel last week. "Where can she go? This is a real problem."
Mason said Anthony was released from jail into a new form of prison. Any venture into the public is a risk.
Recently, Anthony surfaced to speak to CNN's Piers Morgan by phone.
"There's nothing in this world I've ever been more proud of, and there's no one I loved more than my daughter," Morgan said Anthony told him. "She's my greatest accomplishment."
Mason told the Sentinel that the acrimony surrounding the case is "just something that doesn't go away."
Will Anthony ever have a normal life? Mason said he's not sure.
"I don't know that she's ever going to have the opportunity."
Judge Belvin Perry
"Prior to the case a lot of people knew me," says Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry. But after the Casey Anthony case, "that number increased 100-fold."
Perry has a lot of fans these days. Wherever he goes, people approach him with questions and snap pictures.
"They generally say two things: One, they compliment me on the way that I ran the courtroom," Perry says. "The second thing is that they say that as a result of the case, they have a greater appreciation for the system and how it works."
Perry would not discuss the facts of the case, details of the trial or its verdict, citing a pending appeal. However, he said he believed the high-profile trial had a positive impact on the public, allowing people to see the judicial process beyond sound bites and snippets on the news.
The case represented a monumental undertaking for Perry and his staff. Jurors were selected in Pinellas County, then sequestered in an Orlando-area hotel. Coordinating food and entertainment was a constant chore. Even allowing jurors to watch television was difficult.
That was because the case received unprecedented media coverage, on television and online.
Perry said 24-hour news makes it hard for people "not to come to a conclusion before any of the evidence is revealed in court."
Did the media coverage frustrate Perry? "No ... I couldn't be frustrated because I didn't watch it."
Would Perry — like prosecutor Jeff Ashton and defense lawyer Jose Baez — consider writing a book?
"You never say never, but at this point in time, I have no inclination to do that," he laughed.
Though he couldn't address the verdict, Perry said the key question, despite the distractions, is: "Did the system work? ... I would say yes."
For Jeff Ashton, the 12 months since the trial have been busy. He wrote a book, "Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony," which is soon to be a TV movie. He retired as a prosecutor, then announced a run for Orange-Osceola state attorney.
He says he doesn't dwell on the verdict.
"It really only comes to mind when people ask me about it," Ashton says. "I get a lot of that to this day."
People, he says, are almost always positive, polite and complimentary. Ashton says those who've read his book tell him it helped them to move on from the disappointment of the acquittal.
Writing it had a similar effect.
"It helped me ... kind of put it in context in my mind," he says.
Like most of those involved with the case, Ashton was bothered by the intensity of its coverage in the media. He argues that Florida's laws governing the pretrial release of evidence to the public need to be reassessed.
In the Anthony case, "our entire case had been presented to the public through the media" before it ever entered the courtroom, he says. Some outlets, he said, "didn't seem to appreciate the difference between facts and opinions."
Ashton argues the type of potential jurors prosecutors needed to sift through the complicated evidence against Anthony were also the type of people likely to follow the news, and therefore, were kept off the jury.
"Piecing it together from circumstantial evidence was not good enough for them," Ashton wrote in his book about the jurors. "They wanted the answers on a silver platter, but we didn't have the evidence to serve it that way."
Lead prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick didn't respond to questions from the Sentinel. State Attorney Lawson Lamar said this when asked to reflect on the anniversary of the verdict: "I didn't know it had been a year, because I am not looking back on Casey Anthony."
When high-profile Central Florida defense attorney Cheney Mason joined Casey Anthony's team in March 2010, the case was already a national spectacle. But Mason says he still didn't anticipate the circus that would come with the trial the following spring.
Despite — or perhaps, due to — its victory at trial, the defense team has been maligned by many outraged by the verdict. Mason says he's often reminded of that fact.
"There are still some of those that make disparaging remarks, or faces, or even confront me," Mason says, adding, however, that the mail he receives is mostly positive.
Mason has long been an outspoken critic of the way the trial was covered and picked apart around the clock by the media. He says that many commentators simply didn't know what they were talking about.
The larger problem, Mason said: The public's reaction to the case revealed that everyday citizens are undereducated on the criminal-justice system.
"We have a presumption of innocence ...; we have failed to teach people that," Mason said. "In a criminal case, jurors learn all of this really for the first time."
Mason remains in frequent contact with Anthony and continues to represent her as she wraps up probation and faces several lawsuits.
Mason says he has grown very fond of his high-profile client, who he argues has been portrayed wrongly by the media.
"I like Casey," Mason says. "She's a nice person. She's friendly. She's respectful."
Mason estimates he has contributed about $600,000 worth of unpaid time working on the case. Was it worth it?
"Worth it financially? No," Mason replies. "Morally, 100 percent."
In victory, Jose Baez's stock rose considerably.
The Kissimmee-based defense lawyer, little-known before the Anthony case, has since worked for another high-profile client — Gary Giordano, the man suspected in the death of a traveling companion in Aruba — and written a book about the case, set for release this week.
Baez declined to be interviewed by the Sentinel last week. But in a sit-down with ABC's Barbara Walters days after the trial, he reflected on winning the biggest case of his life.
"I was ecstatic for Casey," Baez said. "I was happiest after I heard the first 'not guilty,' because at that point I had saved her life."
But details from Baez's new book, as reported recently by The Associated Press, offer new insights into Baez's take on his notorious client. Anthony, he says, lives in a "fantasy world."
Her much-publicized lies about her child's death, Baez says, were evidence of "serious mental-health issues" and should have indicated to detectives that she was not "playing with a full deck."
Already known throughout the lead-up to the case for his flamboyance, Baez shocked trial watchers with a bold opening argument, in which he claimed Caylee had drowned in a pool and Anthony had been sexually abused by her father, George.
Cheney Mason, Baez's co-counsel, says he didn't approve of Baez's sex-abuse claim, which ultimately wasn't borne out at trial.
"The lawyer should never make a promise in an opening statement that he or she cannot prove," Mason told the Sentinel. He said that Baez had a "good faith basis" for his claims, but "would I have done it? No."
Baez officially withdrew from the case in February, but Mason has said Baez's work for Anthony ended with the verdict.
Baez recently talked to CNN about Central Florida's latest high-profile case, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The lawyer famous for Casey Anthony's acquittal predicted a similar outcome for Zimmerman.
"I just don't see a conviction down the line here," he said. "I really don't."