Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grodin trial delayed in beating death of baby daughter

Justin Grodin’s March trial may be moved back because of scheduling conflicts, but his judge appears unwilling to delay the case with another claim of incompetency.

Grodin, 34, is charged with beating to death and burying his 11-month-old daughter Gretchen in south Fort Myers in 2000. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. He also faces two counts of aggravated child abuse.

Grodin appeared in court with his attorneys this afternoon to clear up any motions that remain unresolved.

Attorney J.L. “Ray” LeGrande tried to get Lee Circuit Judge Edward Volz Jr. to address Grodin’s competency, which deals with his understanding of the court system and the penalties. The man’s competency has been questioned repeatedly since 2005. He was found competent by Lee Circuit Judge Lynn Gerald Jr. then, but Volz, who took over Gerald’s docket, has not seen Grodin the same as his predecessor. In the last year, Volz has twice determined Grodin is competent.

Volz said he has made up his mind and wouldn’t grant a hearing on the matter.

“He has been found competent and he has been found to be malingering,” Volz said, “My order speaks for itself. I am not going to entertain the motion.”

LeGrande also requested that Volz deem a Florida statute about the death penalty unconstitutional. Volz said he would issue a written order at a later date.

The last issue of today was Grodin’s trial date.

In November, Volz moved Grodin’s trial to March 1. The scheduling conflict lies with assistant state attorney Anthony Kunasek, who is also prosecuting Fred Cooper in a double murder trial in St. Petersburg. Cooper’s case was set for trial in January, but was moved to Feb. 17 because there are no rooms available before the Super Bowl, which is in Tampa on Feb. 1. Because Cooper’s trial is expected to last two to three weeks, it would run into Grodin’s scheduled March 1 trial and Kunasek wouldn’t able to do both trials at once.

So, Volz said today, he will try to find the time to still keep Grodin’s trial in March. He said he had already set aside three weeks for Grodin’s trial before the Cooper delay.

“I will have to work with my schedule,” he said. “I will be in communication with both of you.”


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