tampabay.com

Judge: No delay for Couey trial

Early Edition: The trial for the man accused of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford is scheduled to begin Feb. 12 in Miami.

By TIMES STAFF
Published February 1, 2007


A Citrus County judge this afternoon declined to delay John Couey's trial.

Couey is accused of killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. The state is seeking the death penalty.

The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 12 in Miami. It was moved there after efforts to seat a jury closer to Citrus County failed. Too many potential jurors had heard about the case and about Couey's now-suppressed confession to law officers.

The defense said it needs more time to prepare, especially since some key state witnesses --- jail guards who say they heard Couey make incriminating statements --- just surfaced last month.

On Jan. 24, Circuit Judge Ric Howard declined a defense request for a delay. Instead, he gave the defense some help: He appointed Inverness lawyer Charles Vaughn to aid the public defender.

In this latest request for a delay, the defense said that appointing Vaughn didn't help; in fact, it hurt, because it has taken so much time for Vaughn to come up to speed on the case. The Public Defender's Office also says Howard overstepped his bounds and has asked the 5th District Court of Appeal to review that ruling.

Further, Vaughn said Couey doesn't want his representation.

The state has objected to the requests for more time, saying the defense has had adequate opportunity to prepare.