The Strong Defense
The Strong Defense
Ditullio Capital Murder Trial Postponed
The second murder trial of John Ditullio Jr. was continued this week by Pasco County Circuit Judge Michael Andrews, at the request of Ditullio (whose defense attorney is Bjorn Brunvand of this office). The case was first tried last December but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. It had been scheduled for retrial next week.
The case is set for scheduling hearing on Monday and will likely be rescheduled for trial in November or December.
Ditullio is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the 2006 stabbings of Kristofer King and Patricia Wells. Ditullio faces the death penalty if convicted of King’s murder.
Defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand asked for the postponement after learning late last week that prosecutors had supplemented their list of possible witnesses to include convicted felon Kraig Constantino. Constantino reportedly told prosecutors that Ditullio admitted the stabbings while the two were in the Land O’ Lakes Jail.
“I want to investigate everything that he has ever been charged with and every pleading he’s ever filed,” Brunvand said. “He was arrested in Washington state and I want those reports. I have a feeling he is a manipulator of the system.”
Constantino was in jail on charges of aggravated battery related to the 2007 beating of Richard Bernhardt Jr. Constantino failed to appear for a court hearing in September 2009 but was released last week on his own recognizance after meeting with prosecutors.
The state indicated that Constantino was released because it was afraid he would be killed in jail once it was learned he had helped the state.
Constantino convicted in 1994 of aggravated battery, false imprisonment and aggravated assault and sent to prison. He was released in 1996 but returned to prison in March 2005 for violating probation. Released again in late 2005, he was arrested once more in 2007 for the Bernhardt assault.
Constantino represents himself in the aggravated battery case, claiming self-defense. Investigators contend that Constantino punched Bernhardt, hit him with a board and stabbed him because he believed Bernhardt was interested in his girlfriend. Bernhardt needed 21 stitches to reattach his scalp to his head, according to a sheriff’s report. He also had seven teeth knocked out and required five stitches to his mouth.
Constantino will testify that Ditullio told him he stabbed Wells because she was dating a black man with whom she was selling cocaine, Brunvand said. He also will testify that Ditullio told him he stabbed King because he was trying to help Wells, Brunvand said.
Wells’ testimony at Ditullio’s first trial isn’t consistent with Constantino’s statements.
Judge Andrews agreed to continue the case for trial after it was learned Constantino had made more than 300 phone calls from the jail during the past 14 months.
Brunvand wants to listen to recordings of those calls for information to use in cross-examining Constantino.
“Over the past 20 years, (Constantino) has manipulated the court system,” Brunvand said outside the courtroom. “He’ll say whatever he has to say to get what he wants, and I think that’s what he’s doing here.”
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