Alex Tresniowski
July 25, 2011 12:00 PM

Florida attorney Ann Finnell met with Casey Anthony a day after the verdicts and gave her a congratulatory fist bump. Her client, she couldn’t help but notice, had become a new woman overnight. “The difference was obvious,” says Finnell, who as part of the defense team helped pick the jurors who acquitted Anthony. “She looked like she’d gotten a good night’s sleep. The circles under her eyes weren’t as bad.” For months Anthony had wallowed in the minute details of her case. “But now,” says Finnell, “she’s thinking about her future.”

What kind of future that will be-for someone who may be the most reviled person in the country-is the big question facing Anthony, who is due to be released from prison on July 17. After being found innocent in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, a verdict that sparked protests and outrage around the U.S., Anthony, 25, will try to start a new life while dealing with the public’s lingering suspicion that she got away with murder. “People have been saying the jury didn’t think she was innocent but just couldn’t convict her, and I think that’s bull,” her lead lawyer, Jose Baez, told PEOPLE. “Casey was acquitted. She is innocent. Casey Anthony did not kill Caylee.”

Yet many people are still struggling with the verdict-including, it seems, some of the jurors. “Everybody agreed if we were going fully on feelings and emotions, she was done,” Juror No. 2 told the St. Petersburg Times. “I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do.” Juror No. 12, a woman in her 40s, quit her job and went into hiding after getting death threats; another juror, Jennifer Ford, “told me her stomach has been in knots, and she’s only gotten a few hours of sleep,” says her mother, Lynn. “All the jurors expected some controversy, but I don’t think they expected it on a scale like this.”

The wrath of those who feel Anthony is guilty is likely to complicate her decisions, starting with where she’ll go when she gets out. “We’re all totally done with her, and we don’t want to see her again,” says April Otero, 24, a former friend who lives in the Orlando neighborhood where Anthony and Caylee stayed before the child’s death in 2008. “She has ruined the entire neighborhood. She’s not welcome here at all.”

Nor does it appear Anthony will turn to her family for help once she gets out. She is now estranged from parents George and Cindy after her lawyer, during the trial, accused George of sexually abusing her. Cindy tried to visit her daughter in prison after the verdict, “but she was turned away,” says the parents’ attorney Mark Lippman. “We’ll see if Casey ever decides to reach out to them.” For now, the Anthonys simply want their daughter to get “therapy and psychological healing,” says Lippman. “She needs to work through her issues.”

She may also need to find a job. Her lawyers confirm there have been offers from media outlets to tell her story but so far haven’t divulged what she will do for money, or if she will hire bodyguards. But she may already be considering a career in, of all things, the law. “She’s been exposed to the criminal-justice system, and I think that might be a pursuit of hers,” says Finnell. “Whether it’s a paralegal or an advocate for social-justice issues, I don’t know.” She may also take up photography again, something her lawyer Baez would encourage. “Those photos of Caylee are ones Casey took,” he says. “I’m going to give her a camera first thing when she’s released.”

Yet the idea Anthony will have anything approaching a normal life seems far-fetched. “We’re hopeful, though not expectant, that people will leave her alone,” says Finnell. “Casey is a fairly typical 25-year-old. And she is planning on making something of herself.”

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