On Monday, the sentencing phase of a Fort Stewart soldier’s pre-meditated murder trial again was delayed, this time until Aug. 8.
Military Judge Tara Osborn granted the defense’s motion for a continuance in the murder trial of Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich because lead defense attorney Charles Gittins’ skydiving accident was “far more serious than originally thought,” and to accommodate scheduling for other cases Gittins is working on.
Gittins, who was not in court Monday, told the Courier by phone that he is a professional skydiver and skydiving instructor who got hurt “doing what I normally do.”
“I hadn’t done it for 13 weeks,” he said. Gittins said his chute opened but he “made a mistake over a perfectly good canopy” and subsequently had a hard landing. The defense attorney fractured his L1, L2 and L3 vertebrae and injured his left knee, left shoulder and right ankle.
He added that he hopes to be walking by Aug. 8.
The sentencing delay will allow Gittins time to recover from his injuries, Osborn said. She added that the start date for a pre-meditated murder trial Gittins is committed to at Fort Campbell, Ky., twice was rescheduled to accommodate the Bozicevich trial here. Therefore, Osborn said, the military judge presiding over the U.S. v. Miller trial at Fort Campbell denied a request to delay that trial’s start a third time.
She then informed the jury of the delay in resuming the trial and asked for a show of hands to see which jurors had any personal or professional scheduling conflicts due to the date change.
Four of the 12 jurors raised their hands. Osborn dismissed the jury and then called in one by one the four jurors who signaled they had conflicts. She wanted to ascertain what their conflicts were and if their issues could be resolved so the trial could continue next month.
One juror told Osborn he would have to arrange for another staffer to take his place on a pre-deployment site survey in Iraq.
“It’s not the ideal circumstance but I could be here,” the juror said.
Two other jurors told the court they would have to take temporary duty to return to Fort Stewart, one from a career course and another from a new duty station, to complete the trial. The fourth juror affected by the sentencing date change said he would have to alter longstanding family travel plans.
Osborn polled the jurors to ensure they would not be distracted nor hold the delay against either the defense or prosecution once the trial resumes.
Osborn said she was trying to balance various concerns, such as ensuring the defendant receives a fair trial and to bring some closure to victims’ families.
Bozicevich, 41, was found guilty May 25 of two charges of pre-meditated murder in the deaths of Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and Sgt. Wesley Durbin. He is accused of shooting and killing the two men Sept. 14, 2008, while deployed to Patrol Base Jurf at Sahkr, Iraq. All three soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Bozicevich faces life in prison with or without parole, according to Fort Stewart spokesperson Kevin Larson.
The actual trial began in early May after nearly two years of pre-trial hearings. Bozicevich pleaded not guilty in late March.