Katara Simmons/News-Sun Christopher King speaks to his attorney, Shirley Witsett, Tuesday at the Highlands County Courthouse. King abruptly pleaded no contest to aggravated manslaughter and child neglect charges on Wednesday, stopping his trial before it really got started.
published: Friday, November 01, 2013
King facing up to 30 years
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- Christopher King, the father who was on trial for the September 2012 death of his 24-month-old daughter, Amelia, brought and abrupt and unexpected end to the trial after pleading no contest Wednesday morning before the first witness even took the stand.
The trial turn Tuesday early afternoon after Judge William Sites decided to broaden the limitations on drug use dates as evidence in the trial.
Initially, Sites had limited the dates that could be used in the trial testimony to the days the court had full knowledge of King being with his daughter, which were Sept. 6-7, 2012. Amelia was left in a truck outside a Spring Lake home on Sept. 7 and died of heat stroke.
Sites, however, changed his mind and agreed to let the state include testimony involving days prior to the date Amelia was with her father after the a key witness could not nail down specific dates of drug use and stated it happened over multiple days before Amelia's death
Sites and the state agreed it would be important for the jury to hear evidence of methamphetamine use throughout the week.
Defense attorney Shirley Whitsitt asked for a continuation of the trial Tuesday, stating her client did not feel ready for trial since the limitations were loosened.
Sites did not grant a continuation, but allowed Whitsitt the remainder of Tuesday and a fair amount of time Wednesday morning to speak with a toxicologist who could shed light on the affects of methamphetamine in the body and how it could be related to culpable negligence.
Wednesday morning continued in the same fashion with Whitsitt trying to buy more time to speak with a toxicologist. Sites granted a recess during which both sides spoke to a University of South Florida toxicologist over a conference call.
Whitsitt and prosecuting attorney Richard Castillo peppered the toxicologist with a number of questions regarding meth and it's lingering affects in the body.
According to the toxicologist, methamphetamine is excreted from the body within 24 hours or less, however the effects may linger for days. The toxicologist also added that if mixed with alcohol, a depressant, methamphetamine, a stimulant, would most certainly cause a severe "crash," where the user sleeps for a long period of time.
"Sleep is most definitely an affect of a crash, sometimes for several hours," the toxicologist said via telephone.
King, who was not present during the conference call, spoke to Whitsitt after the call and returned to the courtroom to enter an open plea of no contest, which Sites accepted.
King faces up to 30 years -- with a minimum of 13 years -- in prison for felony aggravated manslaughter. Sites scheduled sentencing for Dec. 16 for 1:15 p.m.
Castillo was somewhat satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings when he spoke to the News Sun Thursday morning.
"My goal was to get him a guilty conviction whether it was by trial, plea or jury," Castillo said. "For selfish reasons I would have liked to go to trial because I had a really good case, but it really doesn't matter to me how the conviction came. He plead straight up to the judge and the advantage to that is the issues are no longer appealable. He can't come back later and appeal saying it was prejudice because the jury never heard any testimony. They never heard any of the issues."
Smart Move (by: Blindman~ - 11/1/2013)
This is a case where everyone did the right thing, including the defendant.
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