NewsLocal NewsLee County


Club Blu: Kierra Russ murder trial continues

Kierra Russ
Posted at 11:13 AM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 18:01:34-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Judge Nick Thompson began Monday by sending his condolences to Attorney Anthony Kunasek’s family after Fox 4 reported that Kunasek had passed away over the weekend.

Attorneys on both sides told the judge they want to move forward with the trial of Kierra Russ.

As Fox 4 first reported this weekend the Lee County Sheriff's Office said they have no reason to suspect murder.

On Monday, before the jury was allowed in, Kierra Russ' lawyer did not object or even request a mistrial be declared after the state said they wanted to finish testimony and have closing arguments on Tuesday.

I asked Florida Gulf Coast University Law Professor, Pamella Seay, to put the judge's decision to continue into context for me.

“I think the fact that it was so far along in the trial it would have been very disruptive for the witnesses and the attorneys and the jury and the entire process that it was probably in the best interest of justice to go ahead at this time,” said Seay.

Seay said that declaring a mistrial would also require the state to assign a new jury to the case.

An obstacle that she says would be hard to overcome since so many people have watched this trial unfold.

Russ is the first of five people facing charges in the deaths of Stef’An Strawder and Sean Archilles, who were killed in the 2016 Club Blu shooting that injured 14 others.

Russ is charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy.

Investigators say Russ never fired a gun but they believe she tipped off members of the 1Way gang that members of the rival gang the Bottom Boys were about to leave.

If she’s convicted she could get a life sentence for her involvement in the crime.

Judge Thompson was concerned about the jury hearing what’s been reported on the case, specifically the passing of Attorney Kunasek over the weekend.

The state is proposing that the jury be told Mr. Kunasek is unavailable for the case by “unforeseen circumstances.”

The court was put in a brief, 10-minute recess and then conference rooms were available for individual conferences with jurors.

They informed each juror that Attorney Kunasek is unavailable to the case by “unforeseen circumstances."

After brief meetings with jurors, testimony is ready to continue. Jurors are being brought in.

Judge Thompson addresses the court saying, “Due to unforeseen circumstances with no relation to this case, Attorney Anthony Kunasek will be unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances.” Testimony continues on Day 4 of the Club Blu shooting trial.

The state is presenting video evidence of a meeting between Russ, the detective, and the lead investigator. Russ was in custody at the time. In the video, the detective is questioning Russ about text messages sent from her phone to her cousin Demetrius.

In the video, the detective can be heard saying those text messages Russ sent to Demetrius "make her look bad." Russ responds by saying, "that’s because you don’t understand what they mean."

After more questioning from the lead investigator, he goes on to say that Russ lied to authorities about knowing Demetrius. From video evidence, Russ says “I lied because I didn’t want to be tied to this situation.”

Closing arguments are expected to take place on Tuesday.