The defense attorney for a Dale man facing the death penalty for allegedly killing his girlfriend and her 4-year-old son in 2009 was denied a gag order Thursday.
Columbia attorney Bill McGuire and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone argued 16 motions related to the state's case against 29-year-old Ernest Daise. He is accused of shooting to death his girlfriend, Jeanine Mullen, 34, a single mom who worked at Shanklin Elementary School, and her son Waltfredo-Davis Mullen at their home on Player Road on Nov. 15, 2009.
Daise also is accused of shooting his son, who also was Mullen's child, during the incident. The boy, who was 2 at the time, survived after treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina.
During the hourlong hearing at the Beaufort County Courthouse, McGuire asked Judge Carmen Mullen to bar attorneys or those involved with the case from speaking publicly or to the media. He argued that such publicity could taint the jury pool and make it difficult for Daise to get a fair trial in Beaufort.
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Mullen denied the request, saying that press coverage of the case has not been a problem.
"I'm not concerned about it," Mullen said. "... This hasn't been a story with an overwhelming amount of daily coverage. If it becomes a problem, we can take it up again, and I'm sure that a change-of-venue motion will follow."
Mullen instructed attorneys on both sides to refrain from commenting publicly about anything that wouldn't otherwise be admitted in court.
McGuire also requested that Daise not appear publicly or before potential jurors in an orange jail jumpsuit or handcuffs. That motion was granted.
It remains unclear when the trial will start. The attorneys and Mullen were unable to reach an agreement Thursday.
McGuire said he couldn't argue the case until spring 2013, while Stone said the state could be ready within months.
"I would hate to put this case off until 2013," Stone said. "It seems like this will be a standard, two-week death penalty case. We will be ready as soon as the court can get the trial scheduled."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.