ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Aiden Fucci, the teenager charged with murder in the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, his schoolmate, is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday before his case goes to trial in less than a week.
Fucci, now 16, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Bailey. She was found stabbed to death on Mother’s Day 2021 in Durbin Crossing, less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home in the neighborhood where Bailey also lived. He was arrested in the early morning hours the next day.
News4JAX spoke with Shannon Schott, an attorney who is not affiliated with the case, about what could be discussed in the final pretrial hearing.
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“You can expect them to discuss, you know, how many jurors they’re going to ask for — I’m guessing hundreds of jurors. And you can expect them to discuss the timeline,” Schott said.
The trial is set to be held in St. Johns County despite requests by Fucci’s attorneys to have it moved. The defense argued he would not be able to get a fair trial, given extensive media coverage of the case and the community’s involvement — from memorials to vigils in memory of Bailey.
We asked Schott about jury selection, which begins Monday and is expected to last two to three days.
“We’re trying to find out who wants to be here, No. 1, who is going to listen and come in with an unbiased opinion and don’t have preexisting information about the case, who’s going to listen physically to the evidence and, you know, weigh the credibility of the witnesses,” Schott said.
Schott said the fact that the judge is allowing a six-person jury instead of 12 should expedite the process.
“They’ll be able to get through jury selection presumably in half the time and seat a jury in half the time that 12 jurors would take,” the attorney said. “If they cannot pick a jury panel out of the qualified jurors in St. Johns County, then there could be some sort of motion but... the state’s argument is St. Johns County is such a fast-growing community, it’s possible there will be members of the community that don’t know about the case.”
The judge has already said if an impartial jury cannot be seated, he will revisit the decision over whether to move the trial.
Schott said there is still the matter of what those jurors will see once they’re seated.
“I think it will be extremely interesting and important for us to see, under the rules of court, under the rules of evidence, what will and will not come into this case,” Schott said.
In mid-January, the judge ruled autopsy photos could be shown to the jury. He also said photos of two knives said to be on Fucci’s person — including a knife found in the pond near Bailey’s body — are admissible.
Fucci’s attorney also requested that all cellphone evidence be suppressed.
Fucci 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. As a juvenile when the offense occurred, he is not eligible for the death penalty. He’s been in the Duval County jail because St. Johns County’s jail does not have a juvenile wing.
The Bailey family released a statement earlier this week in anticipation of the trial. It reads in part:
“A trial in which we have to painfully sit through and listen to the events of the crime and brace for whatever argument the defense counsel makes to explain or create doubt on his actions. It is not right. Some days it is harder to ‘feed the good wolf.’ Everything the world throws at you can lead to the bad wolf’s emotions. In these dark days, we must be resilient in what we choose to put into the world. We will choose to be kind and feed the good wolf.”