Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missing Witness Delays Case David Duke Visits for Hate Statute Trial

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Missing Witness Delays Case David Duke Visits for Hate Statute Trial

Article excerpt

A trial was postponed yesterday for two African-American men charged with murder under Florida's hate statute in the beating death in Jacksonville of a mentally disabled white man.

The trial, postponed until May 22 because of a missing witness, drew a visit to Jacksonville from David Duke, former national leader of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

Prosecutors charged the defendants with the second-degree murder of Gregory Griffith, 50, who was beaten and stomped by a group of men Aug. 13 in the 3200 block of Justina Road in Arlington. The hate statute would be used to enhance their penalties if they were convicted.

Jury selection was to have begun yesterday morning in the case against Ledell Lawrence, 21, and Terrance McCray, 19. The other three defendants -- Marvin Jones, Mario Leathers and LaFreddy Manns -- will be tried later.

Both the state and the defense asked for the postponement because a witness was missing, said Kim Hyatt, judicial assistant with Circuit Judge Brad Stetson.

The name of the witness and the nature of his or her testimony wasn't disclosed yesterday. Prosecutors didn't return telephone calls, and a defense attorney wouldn't discuss the case.

Griffith died from blunt head trauma 13 days after the attack. Police said one of the defendants told them the group had planned to attack the first white man who walked down the street.

Duke was in town to attend the opening day of the trial and offer his views on how the media cover such cases.

"I'm here to call attention to an epidemic of hate crimes committed against white Americans . . . and to expose the lack of coverage that exists on this issue in both America and locally," he said.

Duke, now president of the National Organization for European American Rights, said he will return for the trial in three weeks. …

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