Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 06/29/2011

Casey Anthony trial attracts tourists to Orlando courthouse


Casey Anthony sits in the courtroom before the start of her murder trial at the Orange County Courthouse, Wednesday. (Red Huber - AP)
While a trip to the Orlando area usually entails a visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” some tourists are flocking to the area for the trial of Casey Anthony, the young mother accused of killing her toddler daughter.

Dozens of people, primarily women, have traveled to the Florida city to wait in line outside the Orange County Courthouse for a chance to watch the trial firsthand. The New York Times interviewed some of the court-case tourists.

“I’ve watched it for three years and have cried many, many tears for this little girl,” Heather Spaniol, a 33-year-old who flew from Las Vegas for the trial, told the paper. “All of us are here for Caylee.”

A woman from Texas, who was spending her vacation at the trial, told the Times, “I feel like I know these people.”

NBC’s Kerry Sanders, who has been covering the case since it began in 2008, shared his own experience with a trial watcher to Mediaite’s Alex Alvarez, who asked the reporter if he believed people were viewing the trial like a reality show. “I think an interview I did with one of the court watchers in line for tickets explained it best by the words she chose. She told me, ‘I tape it every day, and I have not missed an episode,’ ” Sanders told Mediaite.

“Episode? I was flabbergasted. I even told her, ‘This is real you know? A courtroom? Not a TV show.’ She said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and then sort of laughed. I met a woman here from Savannah, Ga. who dropped her children off at Disney and instead chose to go to court for the day. It was her vacation, she said.”

To secure one of the approximately 50 seats available to the public in the courtroom, would-be spectators used to wait in a line the morning of the hearing. The competition to be one of the few selected for tickets was so fierce that a fight broke out June 17, leading to changes in the rules. Now, people are given passes the day before the session begins.

It seems that at least one local business wanted to cash in on this tourism. Fox Business reported that a group had planned bus tours of the “sites made famous” by the trial, but the would-be business’s lawyer said they nixed the plans after getting a “backlash from the community.”

Many, I among them, have questioned why the trial is attracting so much media attention in the first place. Forbes blogger Kiri Blakely wrote that she won’t follow the Anthony trial because she finds the coverage “selective” considering there are other cases of mothers allegedly killing their children pending.

“I’m not saying that Caylee Anthony’s death is less horrible because so many other children are killed by the adults in their short, brutal lives,” she wrote. “But I am saying that all children who are murdered deserve attention, not just certain children.”

By  |  12:46 PM ET, 06/29/2011

 
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