A Florida teenager accused of stabbing 13-year-old Tristyn Baily 114 times will not be joining the general population during his pre-trial detention after a judge on Tuesday denied a motion to have Aiden Fucci moved out of solitary confinement.
Fucci’s defense attorneys last month filed a motion requesting that the 14-year-old be moved to a less-restrictive environment or a new facility altogether, arguing that his current setting has been detrimental to his mental health. His defense attorney on Tuesday said that Fucci had spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement, a punishment she said was akin to “torture,” despite the fact that the teen had not been convicted of any crime.
“The harm of solitary confinement is well-documented – whether we’re looking at psychology or psychiatry – that this causes a very real and very measurable harm on adults,” Fucci’s attorney Rosemarie Wright Peoples said during Tuesday’s hearing. “We also know [solitary confinement] harms children. And these studies are looking at harms that exist after 48 hours of solitary confinement. This particular child – I know he’s an adult by the court’s point of view – but this child has been sitting in solitary cumulatively for over 400 days.”
She noted that Fucci was initially placed in solitary because there were concerns about “suicidal ideations,” then because of potential “harms to others,” and later due to “threats to himself.”
Peoples then suggested that another option would be to have Fucci housed in a different part of the state, arguing that a lot of the threats stem from the intense media coverage of his case in St. John’s County.
“There are other counties he can be housed in, and I’ve seen from my own experience where defendants are moved for their protection,” Peoples said. “It is not uncommon for defendants to be moved, or have sheriff’s trade defendants to keep that individual safe.”
But Peoples claimed that such a practice has not been exercised in Fucci’s case.
“What’s been done is that he’s been held without any ability to congregate or meet with other individuals, without contact with other individuals, for an extensive period of time,” she said. “It’s my understanding he’s there for his safety. But at the same time, this measure to protect him from other inmates is causing a harm.”
An attorney for the sheriff’s office argued that the defense’s version of “torture” meant the same thing as “being kept in a facility where he is safe.”
“I haven’t heard an argument that suggests putting [Fucci] in another location or another facility would be any different,” he said. “But as far as the ‘torturous conditions’ that Mr. Fucci is currently residing in, the sheriff takes issue with that.”
Fucci’s attorneys on Tuesday also filed a motion seeking to a change of venue, citing “community hostility” in St. Johns County. In arguing for a change of venue, Peoples also emphasized that public officials, including States Attorney R.J. Larizza and Sheriff Rob Hardwick, had been making statements and giving interviews in which they spoke about Fucci as though he were already convicted.
“It’s not just someone’s neighbor. It’s someone who was voted in large by St. Johns residents. Their words carry weight,” Peoples said. “Where the attention is so great, in terms of media and ribbons — our argument is we can’t get a fair jury.”
Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton argued against the change of venue motion, citing to the content of the interviews and the growing chance that potential jurors will be unaware of the case.
“There is nothing inflammatory in the interview,” Duton said. “We’re the second fastest growing county in the state, and largest in the country. We are getting a large influx of citizens over the past year.”
Judge Lee Smith denied both of Peoples’ motions. Regarding the housing of Fucci, Smith said that separation of powers under the state’s constitution placed the care of the defendant under the sheriff’s purview, but said that he expected “the sheriff or anyone who’s involved in this process continues to listen to [Fucci’s] concerns.”
“I think it’s important that we’re all working together to find the least restrictive means to house [Fucci],” Judge Smith said.
Judge Lee also denied the change of venue motion, but said that if it “becomes clear that we are unable to pick an impartial jury, then we can revisit the issue then.”
Watch footage of the hearing below via Jacksonville NBC/ABC affiliate WTLV.
[image via WLTV screenshot]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]