Murder suspect makes final pretrial court appearance
A Palatka man accused of fatally shooting another man in October 2015 had his last appearance in court Friday before his trial is set to take place.
William Carl Sanders, 36, who is charged with first-degree murder, was arrested several days after authorities named him a suspect in the murder of 25-year-old Tony Williams Jr., who was shot in the chest at intersection of North 17th and Washington streets in Palatka on Oct. 14, 2015.
Circuit Judge Howard O. McGillin used Friday’s proceedings to gain insight into whether Sanders’ defense attorney, W. Charles Fletcher, had been able to reach a plea agreement with the State Attorney’s Office before the trial was scheduled.
Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson said Fletcher had recently approached the State Attorney’s Office with a plea offer. Johnson did not give details about the offer but said it was declined.
“Mr. Fletcher approached me this morning about a number I guess his client had thrown back at him,” Johnson said Friday. “It is obviously much lower than we would consider.”
Johnson said the opportunity to negotiate a plea deal would be available leading up to the trial, which is scheduled for April 23.
“Of course, the door remains open. We are willing to discuss a potential plea offer, but what has been presented so far is too low,” Johnson said.
McGillin scheduled jury selection for April 22 and said the trial will proceed throughout the rest of the week if needed. He said if the trial extended into April 25, there is a chance he would have to give the jury a break due to an obligation in a court in St. Johns County, but he would work to find a solution if needed.
“I want to make sure we give Mr. Sanders his full opportunity to have his day in court. That is what we are here for,” McGillin said.
Johnson said he does not anticipate any breaks would be an issue because the trial is not expected to be a lengthy one, and Fletcher agreed.
“Like I have said before, I think this trial will be relatively short,” Johnson said.
McGillin said that considering the severity of Sanders’ charges, he expects Johnson and Fletcher to continue plea negotiations.
If a deal is struck before April 22, Sanders can appear in front of McGillin to officially accept the deal.