A local judge has granted a defense attorney’s request to withdraw as lead counsel in a death penalty case involving a child murder in Bullhead City. Mohave County Superior Court judge Lee Jantzen granted Gerald Gavin’s motion to exit the defense of Justin Rector during a July 28 hearing in Kingman.
Gavin had been on the case for about 27 months and his firm had been paid more than $248,000 to defend the 29-year-old Bullhead City man charged in the September, 2014 murder of his girlfriend’s daughter, eight year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella.
Gavin moved to withdraw through an avowal to the Court that he recently discovered an ethical conflict requiring him to step aside. At the same time he said ethics dictate that he cannot disclose the nature of the conflict.
“Frankly I’m sick over it, but there’s nothing I can do,” Gavin told the Court.
Jantzen said Indigent Defense Services Director Blake Schritter is looking for a new lead defense counsel for the capital case. He said the selected attorney will have some “catching up” to do, but will benefit because much of the rest of the defense team and their work product will be in play going forward.
Second chair Julia Cassels informed the Court that the case would move more quickly to trial if the Mohave County attorney’s office would end its pursuit of a death sentence.
Judge Jantzen expressed hope that a new lead defense attorney will be on board in advance of Rector’s next hearing on September 22.
Also during the July 28 hearing, not guilty pleas were entered on Rector’s behalf for three new felony offenses involving his recent alleged assault of a detention officer at the Mohave County jail.