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Judge grants continuance for Magbanua trial

The new trial date is Feb. 14.
Katherine Magbanua - Leon County Jail
Posted at 10:27 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 17:07:42-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — There are two motions up for discussion in the Katherine Magbanua case - one to disqualify the prosecutor and another to continue the trial.

Dan Markel’s family is on the hearing. Magbanua is virtually present from the Leon County Detention Center

Tara Kawass, one of Magbanua’s attorneys says the state used a demonstrative that the defense never saw until it was presented in court. Says they were deprived of options to fully vet the evidence. Kawass says there were mistakes in the call record visuals.

“What the state is effectively doing here is when it works for their theory, they’ll include it and when it doesn’t, they’ll leave it out.” Tara Kawass on conduct of the prosecution during the trial. “Judge, we were robbed at every chance.”

The main focus of discovery revolves around testimony from TPD Sgt. Chris Corbett looking into call records between Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia, and Charlie Adelson.

ASA Georgia Cappleman says her team did nothing wrong. Says it was offered as demonstratives, not summary but that will change the next time around.

“He does not feel that his testimony was inaccurate so that testimony will be offered again subject to cross-examination.”

RESPONSE TO MOTION 1: Judge Wheeler says there is no evidence of misconduct or intent regarding testimony from Sgt. Corbett. Says there is no prejudice moving forward regarding steps for the upcoming trial.

Motion 1 to disqualify is denied. The court is now moving on to the motion to continue. Attorney Chris DeCoste for Magbanua is handling this motion. Safety is the biggest concern as COVID continues to spread.

“Right now, Mrs. Kawass and I are still at risk. Numbers continue to rise in Tallahassee.”

“This is a once in a lifetime pandemic. The defense team is made up of cancer survivors.”

Both attorneys have written letters from their doctors saying they are high risk.

“We want to try this case but there’s no way to do it where I’m also concerned about my safety.”

DeCoste says they sat next to Magbanua (at a distance) when she was COVID positive but the trial will be tougher.

DeCoste also says they just learned of new potential witnesses at the last minute.

“When we should be doing our final prep, we’re running around trying to figure things out.”

He says four new witnesses were listed after August 25. DeCoste says they need time to depose witnesses.

Judge: “How can we predict when you will be comfortable enough to proceed with the trial?”

DeCoste: “ We’re not planning for a day when the virus. Over lives has been the dangerous intersection over our health and the well-being of our client."

In response to new witnesses, Cappleman says they are minor witnesses or won’t be called at all.

Judge Wheeler grants the continuance for the trial. A big basis is the existing discovery and needs for more depositions. The case management is December 9. The new trial date is Feb. 14.

The judge reiterated this continuance is because of legal reasons, not COVID-19.

“The COVID situation at this point will not impede the start of this trial.”