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Judge delays Katherine Magbanua’s trial

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 11:26 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 12:11 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A judge has postponed the upcoming murder trial of Katherine Magbanua for the 2014 killing of FSU Law Professor Dan Markel.

Magbanua was set to be retried on Oct. 4, but the judge has now set a trial date of Feb.14, 2022.

“The COVID situation at that point will not impede the start of this trial,” Judge Robert Wheeler said.

Magbanua’s defense attorneys had asked to delay the trial until “a time when it’s safer.” Both of her attorneys are cancer survivors and argued the COVID numbers in Tallahassee “are the worst they’ve ever been.”

The judge stressed that trials are moving forward in the Second Circuit and that the delay was based on a substantial amount of work that still needs to be done by the defense before trial.

The defense team said the state sent them hundreds of pages of new documents last week which it needs time to review and pointed out the state has added new witnesses to its list within the last few weeks and months.

Defense attorneys told the judge they need to depose — or re-depose — as many as 10 witnesses and also need time to review what those witnesses have to say with Ms. Magbanua, who remains in the Leon County Jail.

“The COVID issues are really moot at this point,” Wheeler said in granting the delay. “I am granting this on legal reasons.”

The judge denied a separate defense motion to disqualify prosecutors from the case.

Defense attorneys claimed the state intentionally showed erroneous demonstrative aids in court during the testimony of two key witnesses: One who testified about phone records and the other who testified about Ms. Magbanua’s banking and financial records.

The judge ruled “there are no indications here that this was intentional” and “this was not substantial misconduct.”

He did indicate; however, that he will set an in-courtroom review of all exhibits and demonstrative aids before the next trial to try to avoid any similar disputes.

Magbanua’s next court date is Dec. 9.

She is one of three people accused in the 2014 murder of FSU Law Professor Dan Markel. Magbanua’s first trial in 2019 ended with a hung jury. Her re-trial has been delayed several times during the pandemic.

Accused triggerman Sigfredo Garcia and getaway driver Luis Rivera have already been convicted in the murder and are serving prison time for it.

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