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Murder trial will have 12 jurors

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001


INVERNESS -- A man accused of killing a girl on Halloween night 1999 announced Thursday that he wants 12 jurors, not six, to decide his guilt or innocence.

Richard Burzynski signed an affidavit to that effect and also answered a series of questions that Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola asked. The judge wanted to make certain that Burzynski understood the consequences of his decision.

Burzynski told the judge that he will feel more confident with a 12-member jury, since it might be more difficult for 12 jurors to reach a unanimous guilty verdict than it would be for six jurors.

He said he also understands that with a 12-member jury in place, prosecutors will be free to pursue the death penalty if jurors find Burzynski guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors could not seek capital punishment if only six jurors were deciding the case.

Defense lawyer Charles Vaughn counseled Burzynski to have a six-member jury. Indeed, Burzynski himself had agreed to a six-person jury some time ago, in exchange for the state's promise not to seek the death penalty. But Burzynski changed his mind.

The Inverness man is accused of intentionally running over Allison Decatrel after a dispute between two groups of teenagers. The girl was trick-or-treating with friends in the Highlands area of Inverness when she was struck by a vehicle.

Burzynski is charged with first-degree murder and other charges. The trial is set for late April, but it probably will be delayed until June.

"We're going forth at this point and time as if death would be the appropriate punishment," prosecutor Don Scaglione said. He said that during jury selection, he will ask death penalty-oriented questions of the potential jurors.

In other court news:

GRAND JURY SUMMONED: Court clerks have summoned grand jurors to the courthouse for a 1:30 p.m. session April 12. No reason was stated, but presumably the panel is needed to consider the case of Clifford Micklos, who stands accused of fatally shooting his wife.

Micklos, 85, told authorities that his wife, who was sick and dying, wanted her life to end. Prosecutors could file charges themselves or ask the grand jury to review the matter and decide which charges are appropriate.

Grand jury matters are secret, so the State Attorney's Office does not comment on them.

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