JT Burnette trial could last a month

JT Burnette trial could last a month
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 12:28 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The upcoming federal trial of Tallahassee businessman JT Burnette could last up to a month.

Attorneys gathered by phone Thursday morning to discuss last-minute motions and address logistical questions in a call that lasted 90 minutes.

Federal prosecutors told the judge that they plan to call 14 witnesses to testify against Burnette, and it would likely take two weeks to present their case. Defense attorneys told the judge it’ll take seven to 10 days to present their case.

“We’re not going to compress this trial. I am not going to set time limits. I’m going to take all the time we need,” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle told the attorneys. “I would not like to take longer than it takes to do it well.”

Burnette is scheduled to stand trial July 12 on charges of racketeering, extortion and bribery in connection with a corruption probe that has already resulted in guilty pleas from former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and associate Paige Carter-Smith. Both are expected to testify against Burnette at the trial.

Fifty prospective jurors have been summoned in the case, the judge said.

“We are concerned that 50 may not be enough with all the publicity in this case,” Defense attorney Tim Jansen said.

The judge said he would take it under advisement, but didn’t foresee trouble finding an impartial jury.

“A lot of people will be aware of the case. They will have read some headlines. There will be some who have read some stories,” Judge Hinkle said. “I suspect there will be very few who have formed an opinion about Mr. Burnette or even heard about Mr. Burnette.”

The judge said he would not require jurors to be vaccinated to serve in the case, but they will have to wear masks in the courtroom.

Judge Hinkle said the courtroom will be open to the public, and he’ll be prepared to arrange an overflow room if too many people show up to watch the high-profile case.

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