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Technicality thwarts subpoena in slayings

The state attorney's office escaped on a technicality Friday in its continuing cat-and-mouse game with the public defender about whether a prosecutor must become a witness in the case against slaying suspect John Barrett. The public defender had subpoenaed Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti, the lead prosecutor in the case, to appear for a deposition Friday morning at the Inverness courthouse.

An appeals court on Friday refused an emergency request by the state attorney to block the deposition.

Th refusal led the state attorney's office to play an ace.

An assistant state attorney informed the public defender that the subpoena had not been served properly on Tatti, said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney. So Tatti didn't show.

The two assistant public defenders working on the case could not be reached for comment.

Barrett is charged with slaying four men in a Floral City home last year.

Ridgway said the subpoena had been dropped off to a secretary in 5th Circuit State Attorney Brad King's office. By law, an effort must be made to hand the subpoena directly to the person being subpoenaed, Tatti in this case.

Meanwhile, the judge who initially rejected the state attorney's request to block the subpoena has been removed from circuit court cases for now.

County Judge Gary Graham had been assigned to handle circuit court cases in Citrus County through Monday because Circuit Judge John Thurman is ill.

On Friday, the chief circuit judge amended that assignment, ending Graham's temporary tenure as of Friday, said court administrator Fred Hooten.

Hooten said that another circuit judge was available in the circuit to handle Thurman's cases. He said he did not know why Graham's tenure had been cut short by a day.

Also on Friday, Graham informed the state attorney's office that he is scheduling a status conference on the case for Tuesday and that he wants King, Ridgway, Tatti and the public defender's office to be present.

It was unclear whether the conference still will proceed if Graham no longer is serving as circuit judge.