Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Publix shooter case goes to jury after defense declines closing argument

ST. PETERSBURG — In a shocking strategic move, Arunya Rouch's defense attorney, George Tragos, elected not to give a closing argument in her murder trial.

The decision prevented the prosecution from giving the second — and likely most powerful — portion of its final address. Just before 4 p.m., a jury of nine women and three men received the case.

Assistant state attorney Tom Koskinas, who has assisted in the prosecution, earlier presented a small portion of the state's case against Rouch, but prosecutor Fred Schaub had planned on speaking to jurors for an hour after Tragos' concluding statements.

When Tragos realized Koskinas was mostly reviewing the case's basic facts, almost none of which the defense disputes, he decided not to address jurors, depriving Schaub from speaking last.

Tragos has told the court his client was insane at the time she fatally shot a Publix co-worker two years ago.

Schaub had intended to discuss the psychiatric portion of the state's case. He had prepared a Power Point presentation, assembled photographs of the victim and likely scripted a powerful emotional appeal to jurors.

They never saw or heard any of that.

"I believe the state did not even touch on the psychiatric testimony," Tragos said later. "I'd rather this jury remember it on their own rather than I tell them or have a prosecutor come after me."

Jurors heard this week from four doctors who analyzed Rouch's mental status. One hired by the defense said she was insane. Three hired by prosecutors said she wasn't.

While her mental state on the day of the killing has been sharply contested, what actually happened on March 30, 2010, is largely undisputed.

In the parking lot of a Tarpon Springs Publix, Janowski, 40, sat in a silver Honda smoking a cigarette. Wearing sunglasses and a dark sweatshirt, Rouch approached him and pointed a 9-mm pistol into the car's open window. She shot him four times. He died at the scene.

He worked in the meat department and she worked in seafood.

Her defense team has told jurors she was insane at the time, driven mad by months of teasing and bullying from Janowski.

In his brief argument Thursday afternoon, Koskinas vehemently denied that assertion. Rouch, he said, knew exactly what she was doing. One by one, he detailed her actions — and the intent behind them — in the days before and moments after the killing.

She threatened him three days earlier. She marked and "X" through his name on a schedule. She told another co-worker she would kill him. She apologized for the threats to her bosses before they fired her. She went home, changed her clothes and retrieved a gun. She later came back to the store and shot Janowski with precision. She hid the gun in a green Publix bag. She walked into the store, searching for others who had contributed to her firing. And, finally, she shot at and nearly killed two law enforcement officers who tried to stop her.

"She's reacting out of anger. She's reacting out of ego. She's reacting out of retaliation," Koskinas said. "And that's what this case is about."

Jurors have heard from four doctors this week. One hired by the defense said she was insane. Three hired by prosecutors said she wasn't.

Rouch can be sentenced to life if convicted on any one of three counts among the several with which she's been charged: first-degree murder or attempted murder of two law enforcement officers.

Her trial has been contentious and punctuated with lengthy delays. It was originally scheduled to end Friday.

Attorneys have lodged hundreds of objections and requested dozens of sidebars. Judge R. Timothy Peters' frustration with the constant interruptions has been obvious: He's rolled his eyes, shook his head, frequently sighed and, a few times, raised his voice at the lawyers.

Publix shooter case goes to jury after defense declines closing argument 06/21/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 9:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) scores in the eighth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  2. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie


    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  3. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A


    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  4. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  5. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul


    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208