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Jury selection to begin in trial of Gainesville man accused of killing girlfriend
Christopher Vargas Zayas.jpg
Christopher Vargas Zayas

Jury selection is slated to begin Monday, Nov. 8, for a Gainesville man accused of murder in the 2018 shooting of his girlfriend.

Christopher Vargas-Zayas, 24, was charged with malice murder in the Sept. 6, 2018, shooting of Carly Andrews, 26, at the Glenn Cove Apartments in Gainesville.

The trial was delayed earlier this year due to a defense witness’ illness.

In a pretrial motion by defense attorney David West, Vargas-Zayas told police officers that he was cleaning a 9mm handgun when Andrews asked to help.

“While passing the handgun to Ms. Andrews, the gun discharged,” according to the pretrial motion.

Gainesville Police said it was first reported as a “self-inflicted gunshot or accidental shooting.”

“During the course of the investigation, information developed that led to murder warrants being obtained on Vargas-Zayas,” Gainesville Police said at the time of Vargas-Zayas’ arrest.

Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden signed an order setting the trial with Monday, Nov. 8, through Wednesday, Nov. 10, for jury selection. The trial will then restart on Nov. 15.

West requested a continuance Oct. 20 of the pretrial hearing and trial, expressing “reservations about proceeding with a divided trial” schedule as well as problems with travel plans during that time period.

Vargas-Zayas’ family, which lives in Puerto Rico, wished to attend the trial but are not able “to remain in the United States for the more extended period that the existing trial schedule would require especially given that the case could roll into Thanksgiving week if it remains as currently scheduled.”

“The defendant and his family have voiced extremely strong opposition to both having defense counsel being on vacation during the middle of this murder trial and their inability to attend the trial due to the timing as it now exists,” according to West’s motion for continuance.

In response, Assistant District Attorney Anna Fowler wrote that the defense had not shown how he would be prejudiced “by picking a jury one week and then waiting until the next week to present evidence.”

Bearden denied the motion for continuance.

West also previously filed a motion seeking to “prohibit prejudicial displays” of Andrews’ name and likeness, writing he was concerned that it could be prejudicial and “tug on the heartstrings” of jurors.”

Bearden granted West’s motion and directed both parties to ensure spectators on either side do not have any writings or images “which would indicate their association with this matter, support for any side, feelings, attitude or position on any issue related to this case.”

Bearden wrote that this order extended beyond the courtroom to include inside the courthouse and the area immediately outside the courthouse for the duration of the trial.