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Judge rules psychologist will testify in sentencing for teen killer Aiden Fucci

Fucci, 16, is set to be sentenced during a days-long penalty phase beginning Tuesday. He faces the possibility of life in prison.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The video attached to this story is from a previous, related report.

Teen Killer Aiden Fucci, scheduled to be sentenced for the first-degree murder of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, appeared in court Monday afternoon for a hearing on last-minute motions filed in the case. He wore a red jumpsuit, which usually signifies that an inmate is a risk to themselves or others. At times, he smiled and laughed with his attorneys.

A psychologist will be allowed to testify about Fucci's mental state at his sentencing hearing, St. Johns County Judge Lee Smith ruled during that hearing.

Fucci's attorney, Rosemarie Peoples, had submitted three motions that would prevent testimony about "bad acts" he had committed in school and in jail, as well as prevent an expert witness, psychologist Dr. Gregory Pritchard, from testifying.

Two motions seeking to limit evidence of Fucci’s "prior bad acts" would preclude testimony about his conduct in jail, including fights, threats made to guards or other inmates and bullying other teens for commissary -- all complaints noted in his file. Less is known about Fucci’s school conduct, since those records are confidential, but reports obtained by First Coast News indicate that several of his teachers found him disrespectful. One teacher described him as “a jerk” and “a punk.”

Reports also show that Fucci got in trouble once for throwing a desk shield at a female classmate and threatening to throw her out of a window.

Peoples argued that Fucci had never been convicted of any crimes in relation to his behavior in jail or in school. She argued that this made evidence of his bad behavior inadmissible.

State Attorney Jennifer Dunton responded that if Fucci "had been a straight-A student, with academic achievements and character awards" that would all be admitted.

"And it would be proper, the State would have no argument that all of that would be relevant, good or bad," Dunton said.

Because she believes this evidence should not be introduced, Peoples said that Pritchard would only be able to rely on crime scene photos and depositions and would just be a "regurgitation of discovery." 

Pritchard was not permitted to interview Fucci before his testimony, so he would not be able to provide any evidence based on his own observations.

"This argument by Ms. Peoples is quite unbelievable... and I'm sorry to say disingenuous," Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton told the court during her testimony.

She said that evidence of Fucci's behavior in jail and at school, even when he was very young, is needed to determine several factors, such as his maturity, his understanding of risks and consequences and his ability to be rehabilitated. 

Dunton said all of this is important to decide Fucci's sentence, and for Pritchard to create his report.

She said that Pritchard wrote in his report that he often testifies without having interviewed the defendant. He did not make a diagnosis because he did not speak with Fucci in his report, Dunton said, but provided his expert opinion.

Ultimately, Smith decided to deny Peoples' motion to prevent Pritchard's testimony, and his opinion will be presented at Fucci's sentencing.

He said that would "table" the decision regarding evidence about Fucci's "bad acts" until he hears the testimony during Fucci's sentencing. He told the attorneys to remember that typically, evidence is barred from being presented so that the jury will not be unfairly prejudice -- and reminded them that this is not a concern in this case, because as a judge, he can decide for himself is something is important or relevant.

Fucci’s sentencing begins Tuesday at 9 a.m. and could stretch into Thursday. Circuit Judge Lee Smith said he intends to pronounce sentence Friday. Fucci faces 40 years to life in prison. Because he is a juvenile, he will be eligible for a sentence review after 25 years.


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