Prosecutors: Defense delaying trial in child's 2014 killing
By CLARICE SILBER
Jul. 25, 2017
PHOENIX (AP) — The trial for a man charged with killing an 8-year-old girl three years ago is not moving forward because his defense attorneys have failed to provide needed information, an Arizona prosecutor said.
Prosecutor Gregory McPhillips said Monday that the case has stalled because the defense failed to provide Rector's mental health records and its completed witness interviews. He said his team has not had any communication with the man's attorneys since a June 2 hearing.
"The status of this case is that nothing is happening," McPhillips wrote in a court status report last week. "The state will file motions to compel action."
Justin James Rector is charged with first-degree murder in the September 2014 killing of Isabella "Bella" Grogan-Cannella. The girl's partially clothed body was found in a shallow grave near her Bullhead City home.
Rector also is charged with kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body. Prosecutors have said they plan to pursue the death penalty if Rector is convicted.
Gerald Gavin, one of Rector's defense attorneys, asked the court last week to allow him to withdraw from representing Rector because of an ethical conflict and wrote the issue "cannot be resolved or avoided."
He said he could not detail the ethical conflict. If the court approves his request, defense attorney Julia Cassels will keep working on the case along with another appointed lawyer, Gavin said.
"They want to go for maximum punishment, so we have to fight that," he said of prosecutors.
Gavin said death penalty cases usually move at a slow pace partially because of all the documentation and experts needed. He said rushing the process can lead to mistakes.
At the request of the surviving family, the prosecutor said he will file a motion to assert a right to a speedy trial on behalf of the victim.
McPhillips' report said the defense called upon seven mental health experts but no other information has been released. McPhillips said prosecutors will file a motion to force Rector's attorneys to disclose those records.
"Those things have stalled and they may have stalled because they're doing a tremendous amount of work on their side that I don't know about, I'm articulating that it has stalled and that's concerning me," McPhillips said.
Rector has been charged with aggravated assault on a detention officer after he got into a brief physical struggle with an officer who entered his cell during a walkthrough Monday, Mohave County sheriff's spokeswoman Patricia Carter said.