Trial delayed for man accused of throwing daughter from Pinellas Co. bridge

Pinellas County

Jury selection in the John Jonchuck murder case will not begin on Monday after all.

Monday afternoon, the judge in the case reluctantly decided to delay the trial’s beginning.

Judge Chris Helinger told prosecutors and defense attorneys in the courtroom that people around the courthouse have been giving her a hard time about whether or not the trial would begin.

“You know, people have been coming up to me for two weeks, [saying] ‘it’s not going to go. I’s not really going to go is it?'”

“I said, ‘yeah, it’s going to go.’ No, it’s not going to go.”

John Jonchuck is accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe to her death back in Jan. 2015 off of the Dick Meissner Bridge that leads to the Sunshine Skyway.

The issue?

What was Jonchuck’s mental state at the time of the incident.

Defense attorneys filed a motion on Jonchuck’s behalf, asking the judge to exclude the testimony of one of the state’s expert witnesses.

That witness is expected to testify that she doesn’t believe Jonchuck meets the state’s insanity criteria.

That motion forced the judge to ask prosecutors for a response to the defense’s motion. Prosecutor Douglas Ellis paced back and forth as he told judge he felt this was simply a delay tactic.

“The defense has put the state in the position of having to scramble and that’s, I hate to say it, but that seems to be the goal,” said Ellis. “Make sure that the state is not prepared for trial. They filed these motions late, they filed four new motions today.”

In an abundance of caution, Judge Helinger delayed the start of the trial on Monday, instead scheduling a status conference for the attorneys to give her an update on their progress.

The state is not seeking the death penalty in this case. If convicted, Jonchuck faces life in prison.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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