Lawyer for Florida teen accused of killing classmate wants media excluded from pretrial proceedings

15-year-old charged with 1st-degree murder in death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey in St. Johns County

Aiden Fucci appears in court for a pretrial hearing May 5 (file) (WJXT)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The defense lawyer for Aiden Fucci, the now-15-year-old charged with first-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, is asking the judge to bar the media and the public from all future pretrial proceedings, saying the teen’s right to a fair trial is at stake, according to News 6 partner News4JAX.

The motion filed Thursday reads, “Due in part to the ages of the children involved, this case is subject to unprecedented prejudicial publicity and extensive media attention across the four counties,” referring to counties in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and Volusia.

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The court document also says the media coverage and public social media engagement on the case are “ubiquitous and unending.”

It points to “extensive coverage” by the media of every court proceeding, however minor or inconsequential.

The motion says Bailey’s immediate family would still be allowed in the courtroom.

Tristyn Bailey (file)

Fucci’s lawyer also promises she’ll file a change of venue motion, telling the judge that he can’t get a fair trial in the Seventh Judicial Circuit or even in any of the four adjacent judicial districts. Those circuits include Jacksonville and Gainesville.

Reganel Reeves, an attorney not affiliated with this case, says finding jurors who don’t know about the case will be rare.

“The defense attorneys are seeking to get the most impartial jurors as possible,” Reeves said. “That’s why for this case, they want to limit the information that the jurors would see before being selected.”

Fucci will be in court on Aug. 31. He is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Documents show screenshots of Instagram accounts mocking teen’s death

News4JAX obtained the motion on Friday, the day after reporting on documents in the case which included several emails sent to authorities.

The documents show screenshots from Instagram accounts mocking the tragedy days after Bailey was found stabbed more than 100 times in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood on Mother’s Day 2021.

Some posts show support for Fucci. The caption under his picture says, “Pray he comes home soon.” It includes “#freeaiden.”

Another post reads “Just found our Next person. This for You Aiden. Check the News tomorrow.”

The documents from the Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office show others claimed to be an accomplice, commenting on a post saying, “She didn’t want to listen we did what we had to do.”

Some posted pictures of guns, threatening violence, according to the documents.

News4JAX spoke with social media expert Dwann Holmes.

“Right now, it’s just cool to be popular online. So we are literally breeding a generation of, I believe, clout seekers,” Holmes said.

Detectives announced last year that there would be consequences for the fake accounts. Under Florida law, charges could include resisting an officer, providing fake information to police and cyberbullying.

The spokesperson with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office told News4JAX on Friday that no arrests were made in connection to the accounts. Many of the accounts have been removed from Instagram.

Holmes says Instagram’s blocking and reporting features can help — but can only do so much.

“There are so many professional hackers out there that I think its difficult for social media to really have a handle on it themselves,” Holmes said.

Whether the case is covered in the news or social media, the judge will have the final say if the pretrial hearings should remain open to the public.

Holmes says it’s important to keep blocking and reporting to law enforcement if you see something suspicious on social media.

To promote safety, integrity and security, Instagram’s policy says, “We use date we have to investigate suspicious activity or violations of our terms or policies, or to detect when someone needs help.” It also accesses, preservers and shares information with regulators and law enforcement if it has good faith that legal action should be taken.