ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A murder trial that had a lot of build up stopped before it even began Monday.
Before jury selection started, Aiden Fucci, 16, changed his 'not guilty' plea to 'guilty' in the murder case of Tristyn Bailey in May 2021.
The St. Johns County Courthouse was prepared for a trial. First Coast News learned there were no other trials slated for Monday. The prosecutor was ready for a trial too, according to her coworkers.
Since he was arrested, Fucci has maintained that he was not guilty.
The judge Monday asked him many times over if Fucci was sure about this decision, and Fucci said he was.
His public defender – even last week -- tried to get the trail location changed and challenged the size of the jury.
While many people at the courthouse and in the community were surprised at this about face, some attorneys – such as Janet Johnson who is not connected to the case -- say this last minute reversal does happen.
"You know what, it is common," Johnson said. "And what happens is there are all these motions that were denied. And all of the throwing things up and hoping they stick. And at the 11th hour, nothing was sticking. And you look at the evidence and the likelihood he gets convicted is very high."
She said the reason for the change in plea may be to get a shorter sentence.
"The hope at this point is some reward for standing up and taking responsibility," Johnson said.
Fucci has said from the beginning that he was not guilty. but as of Monday morning, it was not clear what his defense was going to be.
"Maybe his defense attorney didn’t know either," Johnson said, "which may be why she did this."
This was a plea change, and not a plea deal.
Fucci still faces up to life in prison. The state attorney’s office tells First Coast News Tristyn Bailey’s family was relieved in the change of plea.
"Most judges are relieved not to put hundreds of citizens through jury selection, security, the family. In the end it saves the system a lot of money, time and heartache," Johnson said.
There will be a sentencing hearing which is like a mini-trial without a jury.
Both the state and the defense plan to put witnesses on the stand.