TODAY   |  May 06, 2013

Casey Anthony judge felt ‘shock, disbelief’ at verdict

Nearly two years after Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, Judge Belvin Perry Jr., who presided over the case, is speaking out for the first time. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports, and Perry describes his shock upon reading the verdict the jury turned in.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this half hour with the judge in the casey anthony murder trial speaking out about the case publicly for the first time. we will talk to him in a moment but first here ae's nbc's kerry sanders .

>> my name is belvin perry jr ..

>> reporter: judge perry was polite.

>> good morning, ma'am, are you juror number 4191?

>> reporter: often genual.

>> okay.

>> reporter: b always direct.

>> can you tell me any reason why you should not be held in contempt of court? enough is enough. here we go if again.

>> reporter: he told the jury his job was to ensure a then 25-year-old casey anthony receive a fair trial .

>> a photograph that is not in evidence.

>> reporter: keeping order would at times test his patience.

>> what you're basically saying sir is that you can pick which court orders you comply with and which court orders you don't comply with, and this is not a game.

>> reporter: the judge is a native of orlando, his father among the city's first black police officers . perry became orange county 's first african-american chief judge. during the casey trial, there was a premium on seats in his courtroom from around the world, hundreds lined up every day for a must have ticket. the scene outside in sharp contrast to the order inside the courtroom. for many, this was a reality show, not the hallowed halls of justice.

>> i've been watching. i taped every episode.

>> our families at disney world but this was more exciting to are hee.

>> reporter: because of facebook and twitter the casey anthony trial was dubbed the nation's first social media trial, and on twitter, judge belvin perry was nicknamed the velvet hammer . for "today," kerry sanders , nbc news.

>> and judge belvin perry jr . is with us now. judge perry good morning, good to see you.

>> good morning, savannah.

>> when you were in the middle of it did you realize what a sensation all of this was?

>> i had no earthly idea it would command the attention it did worldwide. it was truly a fantastic experience.

>> well you had a vantage point very few have, in particular on the defendant, casey anthony . i wonder what your impression was of her, in front of the jury and other times that the rest of us didn't see.

>> there were two sides to casey , the side before the jury where she portrayed the role of a mother who had lost a child, someone who was wrongfully accused, and then you could notice the change and transformation in her when the jury went out. she was very commanding, she to charge of different things and you could see sometime her scolding her attorneys.

>> did you think she was manipulative?

>> very manipulative.

>> you almost suggest she was rather two-faced or putting on an act in front of the jury.

>> there's always two sides to cases, there's the public persona she wanted the jury to see and there was that side she showed when the jury was not there.

>> there was a moment when her lawyers came to her to discuss potentially taking a plea deal , pleading to a lesser charge, and she had quite a reaction to that. can you tell us about it?

>> i will never forget that day, one saturday morning before we were about to begin our session, the lawyers wanted time to discuss a possible plea to aggravated manslaughter with casey . they went back in the holding cell and of course the waiting area for me was by the holding cell , and all of a sudden you heard shouting coming from the holding cell , some four-letter words coming from the holding cell , and she was quite upset, so upset that one counselor suggested that she was incompetent to proceed.

>> did you think there was sufficient evidence to convict her in this case?

>> one of the things i had to do is decide whether or not to send this case to a jury. yes, there was sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict of first-degree murder in this case.

>> what did you think when you opened the envelope and read that verdict?

>> surprise, shock, disbelief.

>> i think you told me you read it twice.

>> i just wanted to be sure i was reading what i was reading.

>> when you say that, i don't want to put you on the spot too much, did you think the prosecutors had proved her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt ?

>> yes, i thought they had proved a great case but you got to realize this was a circumstantial evidence case. and all the defense had to do was create that reasonable doubt and that's what they did.

>> you told me before you thought this ultimately was a close case on the evidence because of some of the deficiencies in the evidence, and when you have a close case sometimes the lawyering really matters. what did you think of the lawyering in this case?

>> well, the state had better lawyers, but mr. baez was very personable and he came across as someone that you would like. it's like somebody trying to sell a used car. who are you going to buy it from? the most likeable salesperson.

>> do you think it was good for the justice system that there were cameras in the court, that this was such a widely followed case?

>> well in florida we've always had cameras and i think people need to know how their justice system works and that's the only way it can work.

>> you look at somebody like casey anthony , she's been acquitted, free under the law and she lives in hiding, she can't go anywhere, apparently can't make a living. in your mind has justice been served to her?

>> well, justice has been served in the sense that the jury has spoken but justice will finally be served one day by the judge of judges, and she's going to have to live with this and deal with this for the rest of her life.

>> judge belvin perry jr ., it is good to have new person here, sir, thank you so much for bringing this pretty unique perspective on the case.