Opening statements were given Monday in a high-profile Pinellas County murder trial after years of delay.
John Jonchuck is accused of dropping his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe to her death off of the Dick Misener Bridge near the Sunshine Skyway four years ago. Now a jury, which was seated Friday, will begin hearing evidence that will ultimately lead to a decision on her father’s fate.
Prosecutors delivered their opening statement first, walking through the events of the night Phoebe died.
Attorney Paul Bolan also addressed the defense’s argument that Jonchuck was insane and didn’t know what he was doing.
“Someone is not insane just because the have mental illness,” Bolan told jurors.
During the defense’s opening statement, attorney Jessica Manuele said the tragedy will never make sense because it was an act of insanity. She detailed Jonchuck’s long history of mental illness to jurors and his unhealthy relationship with Phoebe’s mother.
Manuele also argued that Jonchuck “loved Phoebe more than anything.”
After both defense and prosecution wrapped up their opening statements, there was a brief recess in court. After that recess, the prosecution called their first witness to the stand – St. Petersburg Police Officer William Vickers.
Vickers is the officer who says he witnessed Jonchuck drop his daughter off the bridge. He was asked about what happened that night leading up to the incident with Jonchuck and what happened after he was taken into custody.
A toll collector was the second witness called to testify. After his brief testimony, court was dismissed for the day.
The jury is comprised of nine men and seven women. The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.
Jonchuck was being treated at a mental health facility up until recently. The judge warned the jury that he is medicated and they must not let his present condition in court or side effects from the medications affect their decision-making process.
If found guilty, Jonchuck could get life in prison. If the jury decides he’s innocent, he’ll stay in a mental institution.
State prosecutors will not seek death penalty in this case.
Trial resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.