Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Judge Russell Healey yesterday denied the defense motion to continue the trial date in the Michael Dunn case. The trial will commence on Monday, February 3rd.
Judge Healey next considered the media’s motions to release discovery to the public. By media, I refer to The Florida Times-Union, First Coast News and WJXT TV-4 (AKA: the intervenors). They previously petitioned to intervene on behalf of the public seeking the release of discovery that Judge Healey improperly withheld in violation of the Sunshine Law. They obtained an order from the 1st District Court of Appeal last Friday directing Judge Healey to release the evidence no later than this Friday, unless he determines at an evidentiary hearing to be held held no later than today that some of the withheld discovery, such as names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses should be blacked out.
Judge Healey waded into those waters at yesterday’s hearing with both prosecution and defense lamenting the appellate court’s order. Their major complaint was that the release of the discovery this close to trial may prejudice the defense and make it impossible to select a fair and impartial jury.
Of course, if the discovery had been released to the public when it was released to the defense, as required by the Sunshine Law, the late-publication problem would have been avoided.
The primary concern of the prosecution and defense is Dunn’s 740 phone calls from the jail. The Florida Times-Union at Jacksonville.com has the story:
But Corey said the media would still have to pay for the staff time it would take to produce the phone calls. Lawyers for the State Attorney’s Office have said it would take 180 hours of staff time to review the phone calls before they could be released to the public, and the media would have to pay over $6,000 for the staff time it would take to do that.
George Gabel, an attorney representing the Times-Union and First Coast News, said the media shouldn’t have to pay for the calls because the State Attorney’s Office has already reviewed them.
Corey acknowledged that they’d been reviewed, but said her staff had been looking at using them during the criminal trial, and had not reviewed them for release to the public.
Assistant State Attorney Lisa DiFranza said the office would have to review the phone calls again to redact anything that could be seen as a confession on Dunn’s part, and would also have to take any social security numbers or bank numbers that might come up during those calls because public records law prohibit those things from being released to the public.
Prosecutors estimated there were about 740 phone calls made by Dunn since he was in prison. Corey said about 10 of those calls are being looked at by her office to use against Dunn during his criminal trial.
Corey did not volunteer what was said in those phone calls.
Judge Healey said he would issue an order later.
Given the appellate court’s order, I believe Judge Healey has no choice. He has to order the release of the recordings by Friday at the close of business, so Angela Corey better git ‘er done.
I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to reading transcripts of those calls.