SEBRING - The trial of a father who is accused of leaving his daughter in a car overnight was postponed to the week of Oct. 28 in part because of pretrial publicity affecting the selection of a jury.
The delay in the trial of Christopher King, who is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and child neglect, means that jury selection will be held just four days before charges could be dismissed because of speedy trial requirements.
Richard Castillo, the assistant state attorney handling the case, said attorneys spent two hours Monday afternoon questioning potential jurors before deciding that at best it would take several more hours to finish the selection.
At that point, he said, they had only picked one person who would be part of a 20-member panel that would be further questioned before being picked or rejected as jurors in the case.
Initially, he said, at least 70 percent of the potential jurors said they had heard the case, he said.
When they were asked if they could put aside what they had learned previously about the case, many said they could not do that, Castillo said.
He said he believes the subject matter was as much or more the reason for that than just the publicity.
In 16 years working as an assistant city attorney in Highlands County, Castillo said he has never had a case where the jury selection had to be postponed like that.
Castillo told potential witnesses in the case he had no choice but to get the case rescheduled for the week of Oct. 28 because of the speedy trial requirement.
Judge William Sites said he did not set a day when testimony will begin because it's possible jury selection will last more than one day.
The trial would be just over a year after 2-year-old Amelia King died in a car. The father intially told authorities that his son had accidentally locked the daughter in the car.
But the son said that when they arrived home that evening, the father forget that the daughter was in the vehicle.
The prosecution has indicated during pretrial hearings that it intends to call witnesses regarding possible drug use by King the night of the death.
For the defense, a meterologist may testify by Skype about conditions that would have been present in the vehicle at that time.