Judge grants state’s motion for 6-member jury in trial of Aiden Fucci, teen accused of killing Tristyn Bailey

That was one of several rulings that a judge in St. Johns County handed down Friday

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A judge made several rulings at a motion hearing Friday afternoon in the case of Aiden Fucci, the teenager accused of killing 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey in 2021.

Ahead of the hearing, the attorney representing Fucci filed new motions, including a request for a 12-member jury for the trial. The request came after the State Attorney’s Office for the Seventh Judicial Circuit filed a motion last week to impanel a six-member jury.

During Friday’s hearing, Judge Lee Smith sided with the state on the jury decision, granting the state’s motion for a six-member jury and rejecting Fucci’s attorney’s motion for a 12-member jury.

State law requires anyone that’s facing a death penalty case to have a 12-member jury, but this is not a capital case because of Fucci’s age. He is not eligible for the death penalty, only life in prison. So, because the death penalty is off the table, the judge said a six-member jury is acceptable.

Most of the motions discussed Friday focused on what should and should not be shown to the jury. Fucci’s lawyer said certain pieces of evidence are not relevant to the killing and would unfairly influence the jury’s opinion.

For example, Rosemarie Peoples, Fucci’s lawyer, only wanted the jury to see the autopsy photos that have lethal wounds in them, arguing that those are the only wounds relevant to the charge of first-degree murder filed against Fucci. However, while 108 of the 114 wounds Bailey suffered were considered non-lethal individually, the medical examiner said they would be lethal when suffered collectively. The judge ruled that the autopsy photos could be shown to the jury.

In the other newly-filed defense motions, Fucci’s attorney asked the judge to prevent the state from showing the jury satanic drawings that detectives said were located in Fucci’s bedroom during their investigation, as well as several knives that were taken as evidence from bedrooms in Fucci’s house — not a knife pulled from an area pond. The attorney argued that Fucci was not the artist of the drawings and that during a deposition, one child said they were responsible for them and gifted them to Fucci. The state on Friday agreed not to use the drawings in the trial. As for the knives, the judge ruled that the collection of knives that were found in Fucci’s home is not relevant to the case but that photos of two knives said to be on his person — including the knife found in the pond — are admissible.

In addition, Fucci’s attorney requested all cellphone evidence be suppressed. That motion states that six cellphones were seized during the investigation, and Fucci’s lawyer argues the court should prohibit “text messages, images, photos, music, videos, and song lyrics, because the items are unduly prejudicial and would be used by the State for the primary purpose of inflaming the passions of the jurors.” The motion goes on to propose: “In the alternative, Defendant seeks an order to have the State of Florida identifying what precisely they intend to introduce into evidence from the individual cell phones in evidence.” On Friday, the judge tabled this motion. The state will narrow down and disclose what specifically they plan to bring into evidence from the cellphone content.

Finally, Fucci’s lawyer has been trying to interview three people, including two teens, but all three are refusing to provide information. She asked the judge to be able to order them to cooperate. The judge granted the motion for the adult but held off on deposing the two teens until necessary at trial.

Bailey, Fucci’s schoolmate, was found stabbed to death on Mother’s Day in 2021 in Durbin Crossing, less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home in the St. Johns County neighborhood where Bailey also lived. Fucci, who was 14 at the time, was arrested in the early morning hours of the next day. Home surveillance videos show the two teens walking through the neighborhood and then only Fucci returning home.

He is being tried as an adult, although he was 14 at the time of his arrest. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Fucci, now 16, has been in the Duval County jail pending his trial because the jail in St. Johns County does not have a juvenile wing.

A docket sounding is scheduled for Feb. 1, and jury selection is set to begin Feb. 6. The date of the final pretrial hearing has not yet been determined.


About the Authors:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.