KINGMAN – Murder defendant Justin James Rector has asked the Superior Court to withdraw defense lawyer Gerald Gavin due to an “ethical conflict of interest” that makes further representation impossible, according to a motion filed July 19.
Rector is charged with the Sept. 2, 2014, kidnap, murder and sexual assault of 8-year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella of Bullhead City. He has appeared at 20 pre-trial hearings, with the next hearing scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday before Judge Lee Jantzen.
Rector’s defense team met with him on July 10 and avowed that a “conflict fatal to ongoing representation exists,” the court document states. “It cannot be resolved or avoided.”
If Gavin removes himself from the case, the remaining members of the defense team could remain to prepare Rector’s case for ongoing negotiation and trial with minimum impact.
Both Gavin and co-counsel Julia Cassels said any discussion with the court about the conflict will taint the case going forward, likely causing the entire defense team to withdraw and creating greater delays. Prosecuting attorney Greg McPhillips filed a motion last week to speed up the trial, which has been delayed for three years as Rector undergoes psychological examinations by seven different experts. The state is seeking the death penalty if Rector is convicted of first-degree murder.
Gavin and Cassels are both aware that the court would like to deny the motion and order the case to move forward.
“To do so will cause certain complications that will certainly result in counsel leaving,” Gavin stated in the motion. “Further, it will introduce reversible error that any reviewing state or federal court would determine are fatal to the swift administration of justice.”