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Missing evidence delays stabbing trial

Prosecution must attempt to recover two photographs that Front Royal police lost

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A trial in an attempted second-degree murder case that had been scheduled for late November has been postponed until Jan. 23 following a judge's ruling that the prosecution must produce evidence sought by the defendant.

The trial of Michael J. Guiliani Jr. is scheduled for two days. In the meantime, the prosecution will try to recover two photographs that Front Royal police lost and turn over videotaped police interviews of crime witnesses. Guiliani also faces charges of malicious wounding and wounding someone in the commission of a felony.

Guiliani's attorney, Nancie G. Kie, says the missing photos and videotape interviews constitute evidence that could help Guiliani win acquittal of the charges, although Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Brian M. Madden said the evidence will not necessarily be admitted at the trial.

Circuit Judge Dennis W. Hupp ruled in late November that Madden must produce the photographs and videos in response to a motion that Kie filed requesting them.
"The court heard arguments, reviewed the videos in question and ordered the commonwealth to produce them," Kie said.

The prospects of obtaining the photographs are shakier because the Front Royal Police Department, which investigated the crime, lost them. The department has sent a memory card to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to see if they can be recovered.

Kie said she has yet to hear back from the state. "I don't know if they can or can't do it" she said of attempts to recover the photos.

Police Department officials said the loss of the two photos was purely the result of human error.

Sgt. Jason Ryman, who heads criminal investigations, said a detective who was trying to download the photos deleted them by mistake.

"It was an inadvertent mistake," Ryman said. "It wasn't like we tried to get rid of anything."

Neither Ryman nor Kie would disclose who was in the photos or what they showed, but Kie's motion states she was seeking two photos of Guiliani "to document the injuries he sustained arising out of his struggle with the [victim] during which he maintains he was struck and choked by the [victim]."

Guiliani, 21, of 821 E. Stonewall Drive, is accused of stabbing Bruce R. Alexander at least once with a knife on July 24 at 821 E. Stonewall Drive. The knife blade broke off and lodged inside Alexander, according to an account from a Front Royal police detective in court files.

Guiliani fled the scene on foot and was arrested the day after the incident, according to court records.

Kie's motion also sought "recordings, writings or notes" from police interviews with two witnesses to the crime.

Madden said he intended to comply with Hupp's decision, but declined to talk about it further.

"The less we try this case in the press, the better off we all are," he said.

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