LARGO — The teenager accused of murdering St. Petersburg Police Officer David S. Crawford is set to go on trial one week from Monday, but not in a courtroom filled with uniformed officers.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane B. Covert ruled on Friday that he wants no more than two uniformed officers in the audience at any time, not counting a witness coming in to testify, or the uniformed deputies who are always present for court security.
He also said he doesn't want people on either side to wear T-shirts, or other clothing, with messages supporting either the defense or the prosecution.
That would presumably apply to people who have purchased T-shirts honoring the three St. Petersburg officers slain in the line of duty last year, as well as anyone wearing something to support defendant Nicholas Lindsey.
Covert laid out the rules in a 90-minute hearing to discuss procedures for the upcoming trial. It was the last scheduled hearing before attorneys and the judge gather on March 19 and begin picking jurors for what is likely to be a highly publicized trial.
On Friday, they also discussed some areas in which testimony will be limited so as not to provide information that could prejudice jurors.
For example, defense attorneys want to bar prosecutors from using certain Facebook photos, because one shows Lindsey with a wad of cash and another shows a friend of Lindsey's motioning as though he is pointing a gun — poses that could be prejudicial.
But Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said he wants to use one photo that shows Lindsey in flip-flops similar to those found at the crime scene.
"I need to see the photo before I make a ruling," Covert said.
Defense attorneys also wanted to prevent prosecutors from pointing out that Lindsey had been given Miranda warnings during arrests prior to the shooting. Prosecutors agreed not to bring it up themselves but said it could come out in cross-examination. If prosecutors want to cross-examine a witness on that point, the attorneys will discuss the point with Covert outside the presence of the jury.
Covert's rules about uniforms and T-shirts are similar to those made in trials in which emotions could run high. For example, in last year's trial of three men accused of murdering an 8-year-old girl in a gang-related shooting, the judge said she would not tolerate people wearing gang-related clothing.
St. Petersburg Officer Stu Crisco, who was best friends with Crawford, appeared at the hearing in uniform on Friday and said he did not mind the judge's ruling. He said he expected it.
"I wouldn't want to prejudice the jury, because I really want a resolution," he said.
Crisco said it will be hard for some in Crawford's squad to attend the trial, because they work midnights. He was grateful his superiors were allowing him to attend the full trial.
Why is it so important for him to come? " 'Cause he'd be here for me," Crisco said.
Covert said there is no restriction on how many officers attend, just on how many can come in uniform.
Lindsey's parents both attended the hearing Friday. So did Lindsey, 17, who has been held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail.
Police say Lindsey, then 16, shot Crawford in February 2011 after Crawford responded to a call about a suspicious person. Lindsey confessed a day later. His attorneys later argued that his confession should be thrown out, but Covert ruled the confession can be used in the trial.
If found guilty of first-degree murder, Lindsey will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Times staff writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232.