As Aiden Fucci’s attorneys prepare for trial, the News4JAX I-TEAM is looking at similar cases of children charged with murder -- and how they were treated before trial. Aiden Fucci’s defense attorneys tried for a change of venue – saying it’s too hard to find fair, impartial jury members in St. Johns County. The judge denied that request.
They also requested a switch from solitary confinement while he awaits trial – which they say is cruel and bad for the teen’s mental health. That request was also denied.
“I think the judge is doing what he can. So I do believe his rulings were just he cannot overstep and order the sheriff to do anything,” Attorney Belkis Plata said.
Plata is a former public defender – she’s not involved in this case but is watching it closely – as she’s had juvenile clients charged as adults.
Fucci is 15-years-old but being tried as an adult in the stabbing death of Tristyn Bailey on Mother’s Day 2021.
Because St. Johns County – where the crime happened – doesn’t have a juvenile facility, he’s been held at the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville – spending most of his time in solitary confinement.
“Obviously, if he’s in solitary confinement, he’s having difficult days, he may decompensate,” Plata said.
I-TEAM reporter Vic Micolucci asked, “So when you say decompensate you means that somebody is not able to stand trial?”
Plata answered, “Potentially, yes, they are having mental health issues. I mean, imagine being in a lockbox 23-hours-a-day, they don’t see anyone else. They don’t speak to anyone else.”
Other cases involving juvenile murder suspects come to mind.
In 1998, Josh Phillips was 14 when he killed 8-year-old Maddie Clifton. The case made national headlines – and the trial was moved from Jacksonville to Polk County. Jurors took two hours to convict him. He’s serving a life sentence which he continues to challenge.
In 2011, Christian Fernandez was 12 when police arrested him for beating his 2-year-old half brother to death. His attorneys negotiated a plea deal for manslaughter, and he went to prison until he was 19.
In 2010, Charles Southern and Connor Pridgen, 17 and 16-years-old, each pleaded guilty to murdering classmate Makia Coney. They are spending the rest of their lives in prison.
All four of the defendants were kept in solitary confinement in Duval County after their arrests.
When asked, “What is the defense for someone that is so hated in a community, someone who, according to investigators, has a lot of evidence against them?”
Plata replied, “It’s really important to get a jury who’s not going to be emotionally invested. This is about, what are the facts, not that you feel bad for Tristyn or her family, obviously, this is a tragedy for them. But a juror has to be able to separate that. So you want someone who’s going to listen to all the facts, and then base them on that.”
Plata expects Fucci’s attorneys will come forward with more motions before his February trail date.