Local News

Drug testimony questions could delay trial

SEBRING - A change in prosecution testimony regarding when Christopher King allegedly used drugs may result in King's trial on charges of aggravated manslaughter and felony child neglect being delayed. Circuit Judge William Sites is expected to rule Wednesday morning on whether the trial will go forward after hearing defense attorney Shirley Whitsitt talk about efforts to get testimony from a forensic toxicologist. The trial already was delayed about two weeks because of difficulty in selecting a jury. This time, however, a jury was selected Monday afternoon. King is charged in connection with the Sept. 7, 2012, death of Amelia King, 2, his daughter. She died inside a car after King left her there overnight. Prosecutors contend that King was using drugs that night.
While the testimony about the drugs is in question, Sites agreed that prosecutors can put on testimony regarding King leaving a child in a car in February 2012. However, the identity of that child and how long the child was left in the car remained undisclosed. In regards to the drugs, Whitsitt and Assistant State Attorney Richard Castillo agreed that testimony would be allowed that King used drugs on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7. But after a prosecution witness wouldn't narrow down the drug use to those two days during pretrial testimony, Castillo asked that testimony of drug use during a broader time line be allowed. In view of that change, Whitsitt wanted to conduct a deposition or question the witness. Sites agreed to delay the trial Tuesday morning to allow Whitsitt to do that. After that, however, Whitsitt said, she may need the testimony of a forensic toxicologist regarding how long certain drugs remain in the body and how long those drugs affect body functions. Whitsitt had asked for a postponement of the trial, saying that the change in what the prosecution is allowed to present "does impact trial strategy. It changes many things." But Castillo argued that the information is not new and that with some leeway he could possibly pin down the witness to the days of Sept. 6 and Sept. 7, 2013. Whitsitt said admitting the information is prejudicial because the state lacks direct proof King was intoxicated at the time he is accused of leaving his daughter in a car. Sites agreed that the information isn't new, but that "it sounds like how that information is going to presented has been changed." He said his main issue in deciding whether to postpone the trial is whether that change would be prejudicial to King and his defense. The problem, he said, is that the attorneys had an agreement regarding the drug testimony and now that agreement is no longer in effect. "The reason we're here is the parties, not the court," he said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834