HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Jury selection began Monday for the trial of Granville Ritchie.
Ritchie is accused of murdering 9-year-old Felecia Williams in May of 2014.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Felecia Demerson, the girl’s mother, said. “My main concern is that we’d be her face and get justice for her.”
Demerson has been at nearly every court hearing and now the trial for Granville Ritchie. He’s been accused of sexually assaulting, beating and strangling Felecia then putting her body in a suitcase and dumping her in Hillsborough Bay near the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
The case has taken a long time to get to trial in part because in 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court found Florida's death penalty law to be unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court mandated that capital punishment must be a unanimous jury's decision, not the judge’s.
“We’ve had cases that have come back to us due to changes in the law over the past few years,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said.
Warren inherited the Ritchie case. When he took office, Warren took the death penalty off the table in several prosecutions but decided he would continue to seek the death penalty in Ritchie’s trial.
The state attorney cited aggravating factors including sexual battery and the fact the girl was less than 12 years old.
“The reality is that the death penalty cases take a long time to go through the system - as they should,” Warren said. “We went to expedite that process as much as we can to hold the defendants accountable and to achieve justice for victims and their families. But the cases take some time to work their way through the system.”
Demerson says if he is convicted, she thinks Ritchie should be executed.
“Because I feel he not only took her away from our family but also he took her away from our community,” she said. “And I want him to pay the ultimate price. It’ll be up to the jury.”
Jury selection was expected to take a few days as lawyers deal with issues like pretrial publicity, hardship and whether, for some, it might be difficult to personally impose the death penalty.
The trial, including the penalty phase if Ritchie is convicted, is expected to take up to three weeks.
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