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How will Club Blu trial move forward with prosecutor's unexpected death

Attorney Anthony "Tony" Kunasek
Posted at 10:37 PM, May 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 09:36:25-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The lead prosecutor in the first murder trial for one of the largest mass shootings in southwest Florida passed away Saturday. 

The cause of Assistant State Attorney Anthony Kunasek’s death is still unknown, but Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the state attorney’s office both stated this wasn’t a murder. 

The trial is scheduled to pick up again tomorrow morning. So what impact will this have on the trial moving forward?

The prosecution was close to resting its case in the trial for Club Blu suspect Kierra Russ at the end of last week. As of right now, the court schedule shows the trial will resume Monday at 9 am.

“You’re going to have some big decisions made tomorrow first thing,” said Pamella Seay, Law Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Going into the second week of the first murder trial in the 2016 Club Blu Mass Shooting case, the unexpected happened when lead Prosecutor Kunasek passed away.

“He is the one who has the most information, the most preparation, he’s the guy. The go-to for all of these cases, he knows what happened, he knows it inside and out. That is what the lead prosecutor does,” Seay said.

Week one of the trial, Attorney Kunasek gave the state's opening statement- vowing the prosecution will prove that Russ set the mass shooting in motion that left two innocent teenagers dead.

“To have lost that knowledge, is a huge factor. That could be problematic later on," Seay said.

Seay is a law professor and has been licensed for more than 30 years. She told Fox 4 that moving forward, the judge will hear arguments from the state and the defense on how to move forward with the trial. She said there are options the state could be considering.

“Could this second attorney step into the shoes of the lead prosecutor? Yes, it is possible they could do that but psychologically, can they do that," Seay said.

Another option for the state, is a continuance.

“If that happens, I’m guessing they might go ahead and opt for keeping this jury if they can,” Seay said.

On the other side, Kierra Russ' attorney Doug Malloy could request a mistrial.  

“With a mistrial, you get a do-over, you go back, and you start all over again. You get a new jury," Seay said.

Seay also mentioned that if double jeopardy is attached to Russ' charges, a mistrial probably will not be considered. She stressed that she believed a big decision will happen Monday morning.

Fox4 will be there in the courtroom to keep you updated.