Donaldson attorney wins argument to prevent release of jailhouse conversations

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Howell Donaldson III came into a Tampa Courtroom Monday afternoon wearing a red jail uniform.

He is accused of killing four people in the Seminole Heights area in 2017.

Since his arrest, Donaldson has spoken to his parents several times in conversations that are recorded by the jail.

All jailhouse conversations between inmates and visitors are recorded and Donaldson is no exception.

In January, a previous conversation between Donaldson and his parents was recorded and then released to the media.

In the conversation Donaldson told his parents he’s not doing well mentally.

They offered support and advised him to keep exercising to keep his spirits up.

Monday, Donaldson’s attorneys argued that recent recordings should not be released to the public because the conversations have nothing to do with the case and they only serve to enrage the public and potential jurors in his case.

“That jail visitation had nothing relevant to the case. It was Mr. Donaldson talking to his parents about how he was doing in jail, about the family, similar to the one the court has before it today,” said defense attorney Dana Herce-Fulgueira.

Herce-Fulgueira read into the court record several comments made on social media after the last jailhouse recordings were released.

“Another comment, again from our future potential jury pool, ‘I do hope he’s miserable, it’s called justice. The state needs to dust off old sparkey for this guys,'” said Herce-Fulgueira.

In this instance, Judge Mark Wolfe agreed.

“Since the incident phone call has no relevant information regarding the present criminal matter, the release of such would only serve the purpose of prejudicing the prospective jury panel,” said Wolfe.

The judge also told the court he will rule on future jailhouse recordings on a case-by-case basis.

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