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Additions to witness list delay trial for 1999 killing

The trial of the second man accused of shooting two Land O'Lakes High School students in 1999 may also be delayed.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001

DADE CITY -- It was a small oversight, a few names left off a list of nearly 30. But the addition of five witnesses before a murder trial set to start Monday stalled one case and delayed another into the summer.

Defense attorneys for Lawrence Joey Smith, scheduled for trial on his first-degree murder charge, told the judge they had just been notified of five prosecution witnesses Monday morning.

They asked to postpone the trial so they could talk to at least two of the newly added witnesses.

Circuit Judge Maynard Swanson agreed to put off Smith's trial until next week.

Problem is, Smith's co-defendant, Faunce Pearce, was also scheduled for trial on the same highly publicized case next Monday.

And after that -- due to other trials, vacations and attorneys' schedules -- the next available date for a murder trial could be in July, attorneys said.

Both Smith, 23, and Pearce, 39, have been awaiting trial since September 1999, when they were charged with shooting Land O'Lakes High School students Robert Crawford, 17, and Stephen Tuttle, now 17.

Both teens were shot -- point blank -- along State Road 54. Crawford died and Tuttle recovered. Investigators said they were part of a botched drug deal.

Prosecutors contend Smith was the gunman but are seeking the death penalty for both men if convicted.

Smith and Pearce have both complained about the length of time they have spent in the Pasco County Jail in Land O'Lakes awaiting trial without bail. Both pleaded innocent and both have urged their attorneys to bring their cases to court soon.

Smith's appointed lead attorney, Daniel Hernandez, told Swanson on Monday that his client would probably fire him if the case was delayed much longer.

Pearce has insisted -- in interviews, letters and in court -- that he is innocent and has demanded his attorney, A.J. Ivie, get him a trial.

Ivie said Monday he is ready for trial, except he, too, needs to interview at least two of the five new witnesses.

Prosecutor Manny Garcia said the witnesses were all listed in police reports, but they were left off the official witness list. Leaving them off the list was an oversight, he said.

The witnesses include two deputies who guarded the crime scene, a truck driver who spotted the crime scene, and two of the teens' acquaintances.

The law requires that prosecutors list potential trial witnesses. The defense has the right to question them before trial, to learn what they will tell the jury.

Monday's delay was a disappointment for Smith's relatives, who had driven from Missouri to Florida for the trial. They vowed to return next week.

Smith, clean shaven with a close-cropped haircut and wire-rim glasses, waved to his family as he left the courtroom, pantomiming a message that they would talk on the telephone later.

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