ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County teenager accused of killing his 13-year-old schoolmate, Tristyn Bailey, has opted to flex his constitutional rights and refuse to say or do several things without his attorney present.
Aiden Fucci’s defense team filed a notice with the court last Friday invoking his constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and right to counsel.
The document says he will not speak with a jail psychologist or jail minister about the charges against him unless his attorney is present.
It also says he won’t take a polygraph test, give any hair, saliva, blood, handwriting or voice samples or consent to any items he has with him in jail being searched.
Fucci, now 15, is charged with first-degree murder in Bailey’s death. She was found brutally stabbed to death on Mother’s Day last year in Durbin Crossing less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home. He was arrested in the early morning hours the next day.
Investigators say he stabbed her dozens of times and his DNA was found on Bailey’s body.
Fucci, who is being tried as an adult, is expected to stand trial in November.
If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. As a juvenile when the offense occurred, he is not eligible for the death penalty.
Fucci’s next court date has been set for Aug. 31.
In addition to invoking his constitutional rights, the defense is also requesting that the court put a gag order on witnesses, which seeks to prevent them from speaking to anyone but lawyers in the case.
Other motions include a request that the state produce any evidence that could impeach witness credibility and that the judge block the state from presenting closing arguments that would prejudice the defendant. All are common pre-trial motions.
Additionally, attorneys for local news outlets, including WJXT News4JAX, have filed a motion to intervene in the case, specifically to contest previous defense motions to close the pretrial process to the media and to bar cameras from jury selection.
Ed Birk serves as News4JAX’s First Amendment attorney, helping protect freedom of the press. He said Fucci’s argument isn’t very strong.
“Well, courts all across the country every day of the week, pick juries with cameras in the courtroom,” Birk said. “Cameras are ubiquitous. They’re all over the place today.”
Since cameras are never allowed to show jury members’ faces or reveal their identities, the argument of news outlets is that there’s a greater need for trust and transparency in a major case that rippled across Northeast Florida.
“That’s exactly the reason the public needs to trust what goes on inside its criminal courts, in civil courts, too,” Birk said. “The public needs to know that decisions are being made on the proper basis on the law and on the facts, not on politics.”
Mitch Stone, a criminal defense attorney who is not part of the case, pointed out that Fucci’s defense attorneys are thinking about how prospective jurors might react to having cameras in the courtroom.
“The danger of having a jury selection process open to the public is that jurors are encouraged to be open and honest and discuss their feelings, discuss their opinions, discuss their knowledge, and really open up to the attorneys and the court so that we can make a determination of whether there are appropriate for that particular case that there being that jury selection is ongoing about,” Stone said. “If somebody realizes that maybe they’re going to be on the news that night for what they say, they may not be open and honest.”
Stone told News4JAX that all of the motions by Fucci’s defense are fairly routine, especially for such a high-profile case.
“Anything that Aiden Fucci says to anybody that is not considered attorney-client privilege can and will be used against them, as we hear on, you know, anytime anybody has read their rights, and that is absolutely true,” Stone said. “He doesn’t know how anything he may phrase may be misinterpreted or maybe used in a way that wasn’t intended to be used. So the better practice Is never to allow somebody who you’re representing, to have conversations with anybody about the case, unless you are present. And that’s, that’s my rule of thumb, across the board.”
What do you think? Should Fucci’s whole trial, including jury selection, be open to the public? Why or why not? If you’re a News4JAX Insider, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. If you’re not an Insider yet, you can sign up for free here.