ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The attorney representing Aiden Fucci, who’s accused of killing 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, is asking for a delay in the November trial, according to St. Johns County court records.
The motion for continuance, which News4JAX obtained on Tuesday, shows Fucci’s defense layer wants the trial date to be pushed back to 2023.
The motion is not surprising, given that the attorney just took over the case a couple of months ago and has filed numerous pretrial motions that have to be litigated.
According to the motion, more than 250 witnesses are involved in the case — 100 of whom are category “A” witnesses.
“Those category ‘A’ witnesses are witnesses that the state has put on their category ‘A’ where, without leave of court, the defense does have the opportunity to depose them, and you want to do that deposition because you want to know what it is that they plan to testify to in court so that you can prepare adequately,” explained attorney Latoya Williams Shelton, who is not affiliated with the case.
Fucci’s lawyer states in the motion that while the defense has interviewed a number of those witnesses so far, additional time is needed to do 47 more depositions.
“It definitely could possibly take months when we’re talking about those,” Shelton said.
In the court filing, the lawyer tells the judge that if the trial proceeds as scheduled, “counsel’s performance will fall below the objective standard of reasonableness,” and that there will be inevitable errors.
“With no fault to Aiden Fucci the defense team cannot announce ready for trial this calendar year, because the defense case is not developed to meet the standards of effective counsel,” the motion states.
Shelton said the defense is claiming in the motion that it would likely lose if it doesn’t get more time to prepare.
“If you are going to move forward with jury selection, and we have not had enough adequate time to prepare for our case, then it’s more than likely going to be inevitable that there’s a guilty verdict here and that we did not fully do what we were supposed to do for our client,” Shelton said.
Fucci’s lawyer also tells the judge in the motion that the State Attorney’s Office has no objection to the delay. Shelton said that when the state is in agreement, judges typically agree to push back proceedings.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Tuesday.
A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5 in the case.
Fucci, now 15, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Bailey, his schoolmate. She was found 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.
Earlier this month, Fucci’s defense team filed a notice with the court invoking his constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and right to counsel.
The document states 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 is being tried as an adult. 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.
In addition, 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.
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.