Reporter

Defense for accused cop killing gets more time to prepare

The defense team for the man accused of murdering two Kissimmee Police Department officers Monday asked a judge and received more time to prepare their case.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Aug. 19. A pre-trial hearing will occur Aug. 12 and a series of status hearings are scheduled between now and then.

The status hearing came nearly 16 months after KPD Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard were shot and killed in the line of duty Aug. 18, 2017.

A March 25 trial date for Everett Miller, the man accused of the crimes, was set about 10 months ago. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Greg Tynan said he picked the date in advance to give both parties ample time to prepare their cases and avoid any possible scheduling conflicts.

But Miller’s defense team said they are still waiting on records from the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Office, as well as an expert witness, which Miller’s legal team claims is crucial to the case.

Attorney Frank Bankowitz asked the judge for another five to six months to resolve these issues.

The judge asked if the expert witness still wouldn’t be ready in two months if he knew the capital murder case is set to begin in late March; Bankowitz said he wasn’t sure.

State Attorney Matt Williams accused Miller’s lawyers of stalling, since no one brought up issues with an expert witness during a previous status hearing in November.

Williams said the state is ready and prepared for the case. Delaying the trial may be problematic to the state, Williams claimed, since some witnesses are transitory, and become more difficult to locate as time goes by.

The typical time for discovery – or the time it takes to gather facts and evidence before a trial begins — is typically 180 days for felony cases, according to the judge. Because the state is seeking the death penalty for Miller, the judge granted his defense team about three times longer to prepare their case.

Both sides agreed nothing is unusual about this case aside for that the state is seeking the death penalty for Miller.

Miller currently faces two first-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting deaths of Baxter and Howard.

Miller waived his right to a speedy trial on Dec. 17, 2017, according to court documents.

On May 24, the court issued a detailed timeline and deadlines for both parties to ensure that the March 2019 trial date would not be delayed. Two status hearings were then held, one in August and another in November.

The state objected to Miller’s request for a continuance, according to court documents, citing that the defense’s request lacked any statement on why discovery has taken so long and why it can’t be completed in the next 60 days.