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Prosecutor may have to testify

The prosecutor handling an upcoming murder trial could wind up sitting on the witness stand himself if defense attorneys have their way. Defense attorneys for John Barrett, the man accused of four murders in Floral City, on Monday won the first round in a battle to force Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti to give a sworn statement about his involvement in the investigation of the case.

County Judge Gary Graham, filling in for an injured Circuit Judge John Thurman, ruled in favor of the defense.

If the ruling is upheld and Tatti is forced to give a deposition, he could be forced off the case because he would be both a witness and prosecutor in the same case.

Tatti, who handles murder cases for the 5th Circuit state attorney's office, is the lead prosecutor against Barrett.

He has shadowed Citrus sheriff's investigators since four bodies were discovered Aug. 3 inside Jo Ann Sanders' house on U.S. 41 in Floral City.

Tatti went to Ohio with the investigators to find Barrett, and he was present when the investigators completed two days of interviews with the suspect.

Authorities allege that the four people were killed when Barrett botched a job to kill Ms. Sanders to prevent her from collecting a large divorce settlement.

Barrett's trial is scheduled to start next month.

On May 23, officers delivered a subpoena to Tatti's office asking him to appear for depositions Friday. The state immediately asked the court to throw out the subpoena.

During the hearing Monday, Assistant Public Defender Ed Bonnett said Tatti's involvement transformed him into a material witness whose information is important to the case.

Tatti was "more than observing what was going on," Bonnett told Graham.

Assistant State Attorney Jim Phillips countered, saying that the defense had no right to take Tatti's deposition because Tatti was not listed as a case witness.

Also, Phillip said Tatti's role in the case was clear because the interviews were taped and transcribed.

During an interview, Tatti said his procedure in the Barrett case did not differ from his involvement in similar cases.