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Attorneys for accused murderer Aiden Fucci seek to muzzle witnesses

Lawyers for the St. Johns County teen accused of stabbing Tristyn Bailey to death want to block witnesses from discussing case.
Credit: St. Johns County Sheriff's Office
Aiden Fucci, 14, is charged with first degree murder in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new filing in the first-degree murder case against a St. Johns County teen seeks to muzzle potential witness in the case. Attorneys for Aiden Fucci say the move is needed to prevent them from either sharing incorrect information or changing their testimony ahead of trial.

If approved by the judge, it would prevent witnesses from discussing the case outside of the presence of defense lawyers and prosecutors.

Fucci is accused of slaying his 13-year-old classmate Tristyn Bailey by stabbing her 114 times last May. He is being charged as an adult and faces life in prison.

In the motion, Assistant Public Defender Rosemarie Peoples says, “the prosecution has listed in excess of one hundred and fifty witnesses, of which more than half are Category ‘A’ witnesses. To allow the witnesses to discuss this case or their testimony among themselves creates the likelihood that their testimony could change by virtue of the discussion.”

It continues, “Moreover there is an ongoing proliferation of inaccurate information thorough out social media, news outlets and the citizens of St. Johns County; such that the potential for witnesses to adopt false information is great and only increases as the witnesses share information receive beyond their individual observations.”

The state has not yet filed a response.

In a separate motion, a coalition of local media announced its intent to challenge Peoples’ request to bar cameras from some court proceedings and to close pretrial proceedings. Peoples argues that pretrial hearings will include information, including testimony and photos, that could be prejudicial against their client, but ultimately not allowed as testimony. The motion says closure “is necessary to preserve and protect [Fucci’s right] to a fair trial.”

She filed an additional motion to block cameras from jury selection saying jurors “will not feel comfortable expressing their deeply held biases or prejudices if they see cameras inside the courtroom.”

Jurors or potential jurors are not shown or broadcast by local media. St. Johns County court rules do not expressly prohibit that, but Clay, Nassau and Duval counties expressly prohibit jurors from being photographed or in any way identified by media – a practice that has become standard operating procedure.

In the filing, attorneys said the media coalition will “oppose all motions seeking to exclude the news media from Court proceedings.” It noted that court proceedings “are presumptively open and cannot be restricted” without a hearing and specific findings of fact that excluding media is necessary – generally recognized as a high legal bar.

Fucci is due back in court in late August.

 

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