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Florida judge in Casey Anthony trial returns to private practice

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla (Reuters) - The Florida judge who presided over the Casey Anthony murder trial in 2011 started a new job as a personal injury lawyer on Tuesday, two days after he retired from the bench.

Belvin Perry Jr. was praised widely for his calm and even-handed management of the Orlando trial televised worldwide in which Anthony was acquitted of killing her 2year-old daughter, Caylee, whose body was found duct-taped and dumped in woods near their home.

"I’ve always wanted to be that giant that looked out for the little guy,” Perry, 64, said at a news conference at his new workplace, the Orlando home office of the national Morgan and Morgan law firm.

Perry created a set of procedures to handle crowds of media, spectators, tourists and protesters that has been replicated for high-profile cases, including in the 2013 Florida trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

In an interview on NBC's "Today" show last year, Perry said he thought there had been enough evidence to convict Anthony even though the case was mostly circumstantial. In later interviews he said he was surprised and shocked when he read the jury verdict.

    Perry was known in the state for more than the Anthony trial. He served on a state panel on court budgets and as chairman of the Florida Innocence Commission, which looked at ways to help prevent wrongful conviction.

At his news conference, Perry said he had wanted to be a personal injury lawyer when he graduated from law school but that fate led him first to become a prosecutor and then a judge. His time on the bench included 18 years as chief judge of the third largest judicial district in Florida.

Perry called the new job a "golden opportunity" that he said, after working six or seven days a week as chief judge, will finally allow him to play more golf.

(Editing by Bill Trott)