Picture2The new lead attorney for an alleged Bullhead City child killer brings new energy and a different approach to his representation of Justin Rector, 26. Phoenix lawyer Jerry  Gavin has been appointed lead defense chair in the death penalty case, in place of Public Defender Harry Moore who exited due to a legal conflict.

Gavin told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen during a March 25 hearing that Rector’s defense has been idling along for months and that he is taking care of work that should have been done long ago. Gavin said he filed eight pre-trial motions on Rector’s behalf on March 9, the first day he was assigned the case.

Gavin said he and co-counsel Legal Defender Ron Gileo are “in catch-up” mode as they work their way through roughly 1,200 pages of discovery and at least 60 compact discs of information relative to their defense of Rector.

Gavin told Judge Jantzen that the defense team has retained the services of a mitigation specialist who will perform extensive research into Rector’s background. He said comprehensive mitigation exploration typically represents roughly 80% of the defense effort in capital cases.

While part of Moore’s initial focus was to arrange legally required mental health examination for the defendant, Gavin said he assigns that a lower priority up front. Gavin explained that the mental health exploration is more meaningful and valuable when the defense has a better foundation of discovery and mitigation for an expert to work into the analysis.

Gavin said he feels the mental health analysis should take place 6-12 months down the road.

Judge Jantzen informed the parties he will be attempting to rule on many of the pending motions by minute order and hear oral argument on others. The next status hearing is scheduled May 6 and Rector is held without bond pending trial in late 2016.

Rector is charged in the asphyxiation murder of eight-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella early last September. In  telephone conversations recorded at the Mohave County jail, Rector previously told his father and Ashlee Bowen that he needed to “man up”, “take responsibility” and “accept punishment” for his involvement in the girl’s disappearance and death.