Casey Anthony Should Not Have Served Probation While in Jail: Judge

PHOTO: Casey AnthonyPlayJoe Burbank/The Orlando Sentinel
WATCH Casey Anthony Probation Hearing

Casey Anthony should not have been allowed to serve a year's probation for check fraud while in jail awaiting trial for murder, a judge said today, but he was uncertain whether he could order her to come out of hiding to serve probation again.

"It's not a clear black and white issue," Judge Belvin Perry said. "I can't answer the question if someone is erroneously placed on probation can they be made to redo it….I just don't know the answer at this time."

Anthony, the 25-year-old woman acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee, did not have to attend the emergency hearing.

The hearing dealt with Judge Stan Strickland's order requiring Anthony to return to Orlando, Fla., and serve a year's probation. Strickland presided over a check fraud case involving Anthony in 2010. Anthony pleaded guilty to stealing checks from friend Amy Huizenga during the time Caylee was missing.

Strickland, who has publicly questioned Anthony's murder acquittal, filed an order on Monday saying that his sentencing instructions were not properly implemented. In his oral sentencing, Strickland ordered Anthony to serve 412 days in jail and probation when she was released from jail. An error was made on the written sentencing which allowed Anthony to serve her probation while in jail awaiting her murder trial.

Perry made clear that he felt Anthony should not have been allowed to serve a probation while in jail. "The judge's oral pronouncement was not followed," he said at one point. Later he appeared to scoff at the arrangement, saying "if you can call it probation in jail."

Casey Anthony Judge Says She Can Stay in Hiding For Now

Nevertheless, he was uncertain about his ability to remedy the dispute, calling it a "legal maze."

Perry said that he needed to do more research before he could rule on the matter. He also said that he needed to research what precautions could be taken to protect Anthony if he orders her to serve probation. Anthony has been in hiding since she was released from jail on July 17 and has received death threats.

"I'm also well aware of the threats that have been lodged against Ms. Anthony," Perry said. "If neither side has any objections, I would like to call the Department of Corrections to find out what things can be done consistent with the law to satisfy the conditions of probation but also make sure that she is also protected."

Perry hinted at the possibility of administrative probation which would allow Anthony to serve her probation out of state. Recent photos and video obtained by indicated she was in Ohio.

The defense contends that Anthony has already served her probation and that Strickland no longer has any jurisdiction over Anthony. Strickland recused himself from the case earlier this week.

"For the previous judge to enter an amended order well after the completion of her probation isn't simply clearing up an error," said defense attorney Lisabeth Fryer. "He [Judge Strickland] issued an order to be acted upon by the Department of Corrections so she would begin a second term of probation for the same crime."

Defense attorney Jose Baez called Susan Finnegan, the Florida Department of Corrections' senior supervisor, to testify by phone that Anthony had successfully completed her probation. Finnegan said that Anthony's probation was terminated on Jan. 24.

Finnegan also spoke about the difficulties that her probation officers might encounter if Anthony is sentenced to probation again.

"All the public attention on the case would be a unique challenge," Finnegan said.

The prosecution argued that they did not know that Anthony had erroneously served her probation while in jail until this week.

They argue that the function of probation is to help convicted criminals reenter their communities, something that could be hard to do while sitting in confinement in a jail cell.

"The state believes that it's certainly bad public policy to allow someone to serve probation while in custody," prosecutor Frank George said. "This supervision was supervision in name only. Ms. Anthony was required to do nothing…her only obligation was not to attack anybody or try to escape."

For now, Anthony does not have to return to Florida.