SEBRING —A Highlands County circuit judge has delayed a decision on whether the trial of one of the principal defendants in the murder trial of Aaron Doty should be moved outside of Highlands County.
Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance also has signed in the case of Kenneth Felipe Jr. orders prohibiting the prosecution from entering testimony on certain matters during the trial unless the defense opens the door and one regarding possible conflicts of interest.
The motions involve the case of Felipe, who along with Jonathan Ray Rodriguez, is accused of murdering Doty during a party the night of June 9, 2012. Authorities allege that Felipe and Rodriguez, both charged with first-degree murder, beat Doty and then set him on fire while he was still alive, although unconscious. The prosecution does not plan to seek the death penalty, but is expected to ask that both be tried at the same time in January 2015.
Several other party attendees have been charged with lesser charges.
Attorneys for Felipe had asked for a change of location or venue for the trial on the basis of voluminous publicity in both traditional media and in other forms of social media, such as Facebook.
In regards to the motion to change venue, Durrance stated in his order that “the defendant’s motion is legally sufficient and places the issues of the necessity of a change of venue at issue before the court.”
Durrance added, however, that “the court will take the matter under advisement and defer a decision until an attempt is made to seat a fair and impartial jury in Highlands (County).”
In another court order, Durrance stated that the prosecution and the defense in the case of Felipe agreed that unless the defense raises the issue, the prosecution will make no reference to Felipe having “sold, delivered or consumed unlawful drugs,” that Felipe “battered,” a current or former girlfriend, and that Felipe “was jealous of the victim, Aaron Doty.”
They also agreed to no reference to “that the convictions of certain witnesses as accessories after the fact had been adjudicated” and that Felipe “was rude or mean-spirited.”
The prosecution and the defense, however, have not agreed on whether evidence can be entered that the defendant wanted another individual at the party to fight Doty.
In the final motion, the order issued by Durrance states that Felipe agreed that he is satisfied with his attorney’s advice no substantive actual ethical conflicts exist involving several witnesses.