Attorneys for Austin Harrouff argued in court Tuesday afternoon that the state has not provided all evidence gathered in the first-degree murder case in Martin County. After going through evidence and noticing some items were mentioned in documents but had not been provided, Harrouff’s attorneys said they want to know what else they might be missing that could potentially help their client.
Harrouff, who is from Jupiter, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 15, 2016, fatal attack of John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon at their home on South Kokomo Lane in Martin County, just north of the Palm Beach County border.
The case made national headlines after authorities said they found Harrouff on top of the fatally wounded Stevens, biting his face. Initially, law-enforcement officers believed the teen was high on drugs such as flakka or bath salts. After Harrouff’s drug tests came back negative, family and lawyers say the former Florida State University student suffers from mental-health issues.
In court Tuesday afternoon, one of Harrouff’s attorneys, Nellie King, said there are more than 240 witnesses in the case and a more than 3,700 pages of discovery, but from what the defense team has read in those pages, there appear to be pieces of evidence missing.
King said they know the Federal Bureau of Investigation tested for drugs in Harrouff’s system, but they don’t have any of the communication between local authorities and the bureau or how the FBI became involved in the first place.
For the 49 days that Harrouff was at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, recovering from ingesting an unknown substance, the teen was under watch by law-enforcement officers around the clock. But, King said, there was no evidence provided of communications either between those authorities and their superiors or between each other.
“I think this is one of those cases because there are so many agencies involved, that they need to go look for (possible evidence),” King said.
In the initial motion filed in March, King requested a wide-ranging list of potential evidence, such as any documentation not already provided, text messages and anything else gathered in the case.
Assistant State Attorney Jeff Hendriks said there were no specifics given about what may be missing in the motion King put into place and in conversations with her. After hearing King’s points in court, Hendriks said that he has not seen any items such as personal correspondence — such as texts and emails — between authorities who were working on the case, but that he can ask those agencies for those materials. He said he’d work with Harrouff’s legal team to make specific requests.
Austin Harrouff, the Jupiter resident charged with fatally stabbing two people, is back in court today. His lawyer believes there’s evidence in the case that has not been provided. pic.twitter.com/E6f7x58MK7— Hannah Winston (@hannahwinston) May 15, 2018
Robert Watson, another one of Harrouff’s attorneys, said it’s fine if the attorneys send out the extensive request list to the agencies involved and have them check for the documents one by one and nothing shows up.
But he said they should have access to those hundreds of potential documents, even if it’s just for “three pieces of paper” that could make the difference in the case.
“It doesn’t make any sense not to get every single piece of paper from every law-enforcement agency,” Watson said.
Judge Lawrence Mirman did not order any specific ruling, but said he’d be available for any future court hearings on the matter if the lawyers cannot come to an agreement. Mirman mentioned that when he worked in civil courts that there was nothing “more litigious or contested or acrimonious than discovery disputes.”
“I don’t want the discovery issue to lead to acrimony and it makes the real issues in the case harder to get to,” he said.
Mirman said because he expects the case will go forward on an insanity defense the case will rely heavily on experts. He said those experts rely on the evidence for their testimony. Any small piece of observation or note potentially recorded by authorities might not seem like anything to an attorney or even a judge, he said, but it may make the difference of opinion for those experts on the stand.
“This is not your typical ‘Who done it?’ type of investigation,” Mirman said. “These issues are much more complicated than that.”