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Couey lawyers seek new delay

Early edition: Attorneys for the man accused of murdering a 9-year-old Homossa girl want to give an appeals court time to review recent rulings.

By JOHN FRANK
Published January 31, 2007


INVERNESS — Once again, defense attorneys for the man accused of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford are asking a Citrus judge to delay the Feb. 12 trial.

John Couey’s defense team filed various motions today asking Circuit Judge Ric Howard to stay the proceedings so they can challenge his latest ruling to the 5th District Court of Appeal.

On Jan. 24, Howard rejected the defense’s request for additional time even as the prosecution provided more than 1,000 pages of fresh evidence and about a dozen new witnesses — two of whom are key to the state’s case.

Instead of a delay, Howard appointed a third co-counsel, Inverness attorney Charles P. Vaughn, to help with the workload.

The defense now argues that Howard acted “improperly or in excess of (his) constitutional and statutory authority” in appointing Vaughn.

Public Defender Howard “Skip” Babb authored a motion asking the judge to freeze the case until a higher court can review the motion.

Vaughn says in an affidavit that he “cannot be prepared adequately to help the team at trial or depositions” with the date looming two weeks away. If anything, he says, he will take away from the time the defense has to prepare as they catch him up to speed.

Vaughn also states that the Justice Administration Commission cannot pay him for his work, as Howard suggested, and Couey objected to his appointment as co-counsel.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon to address the latest court fililngs.

The trial is scheduled to start Feb. 12 in Miami. Couey is charged with kidnapping, raping and killing the Homosassa girl in February 2005. The state is seeking the death penalty.