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Special Event

Wrestling Death: Defense Requests Disclosure of Grand Jury Proceedings

Aired March 9, 2001 - 9:15 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's go now live to that courtroom in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. This judge here will decide the fate of Lionel Tate, the 14-year-old boy responsible for killing a six-year-old girl in a wrestling incident.

JUDGE JOEL LAZARUS, BROWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT CT.: (JOINED IN PROGRESS) ... and if the motion for new trial not granted, anybody who wishes to address the court as far as sentencing matters, I intend to listen to all arguments and what anybody has is relevant.

There will be at the conclusion -- before everyone's motions of sentencing, there will be a recess. The recess will probably be somewhere around one hour. We have to see what time it is. If it's at lunch time, I'll give an hour and a quarter. I apologize for any of the inconvenience.

But I'm talking with the chief when we do take a recess. Coming back after recess, we will be having the same procedures as far as security. But it's in their hands. And this is their mandate, and I am following that.

One preliminary -- one motion is the -- that I want to address first is the defense request for disclosure of grand jury proceedings. Who's going to be arguing that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am, Your Honor.

LAZARUS: You may proceed.

And again, excuse me, I read your motion. I read the state's response, also. So I appreciate that you limit your comments to matters outside the motion.

I just handed it to it just a couple of seconds ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the response was attached to a copy of the motions that I filed to you. Here's another copy if you'd like.

Just so that the court's aware, I -- because of the late filing of the written motion for grand jury proceedings and for incompetency, I worked nonstop for the last few days. And finished last night at about approximately seven o'clock p.m. in my office. And immediately called Mr. Lewis approximately that time, and told him that I had motions available to him. I knew that their law offices were closed. So I could not get them over to him. But I said that they would be available to be picked up and read here this morning at 8:15 a.m., to give them time to read that response.

LAZARUS: For the record, your response is a page and a quarter with four paragraphs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

LAZARUS: It's not extensive as far as weight is committed to.

RICHARD ROSENBAUM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your Honor, I felt there was a renewed request for disclosure of grand jury proceedings based upon comments and assertions that were made by the assistance state attorney in this case.

The assistance state attorney's specifically asked question during the motion for new trial, concerning what allegedly is an office policy in the state attorney's office in the 17th Judicial Circuit, that the prosecutor not seek any special degree or offense. Making it sound as if the grand jury on their own, without any prompting from the state attorney's office, came back with the first- degree murder indictment.

While truly they did come back with the first-degree murder indictment, the prosecutor's now placed basically the credibility of his office on the line. And I think we are entitled at this point to review the grand jury transcripts to see whether there was even-handed resuscitation of the facts, and to see who actually testified in the front of the grand jury.

Interestingly, it's my understanding that there were no grand jury transcripts that were supplied to the defense pursuant to 3.220, other than that of Lionel's mother. And I believe that any statements made by our witness would be discoverable. We would move not only under Brady, but under the federal case law pursuant to Jenks and Giglio, that it was the prosecutor's obligation to turn those over. It's my understand that those have not been turned over.

The usual reasons for grand jury secrecy would be to try to protect things. And in this case, I'm assuming that the same witness that testified at the grand jury have now given depositions, have now testified at trial. There are no reasons for grand jury secrecy.

We would ask, Your Honor, to just order the disclosure of grand jury testimony at this time.

HARRIS: All right, we dipped into this courtroom in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. A bit early there. Going over some procedural matters. And once they get down to the business, then, of actually listening to some of the testimony and the judge will actually get that process under way, we hope, now very shortly, we'll go back to the courtroom at that time.

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