Analyst's vacation may mean break for hit-and-run defendant

- Defendant Rico Taylor may have caught a huge break just before he goes to trial. Prosecutors announced one of their key witnesses is out of the country and won’t be able to testify during the trial next week.

Taylor is accused of a hit-and-run crash that killed single mother Tyronda Sampson and her passenger earlier this year.  A toddler, properly strapped to a child car seat, survived the crash.

Cops say Taylor fled from the scene but was caught a short time later.  While in custody, his blood alcohol level was taken, but now the analyst who tested Taylor is on vacation out of the country.

Prosecutors want the judge to push back the trial. Hillsborough Judge Kimberly Fernandez was not happy.

"It’s like, when did she get served and why is she telling you four days before trial that she's on vacation?" asked the judge.

The judge quickly rejected the state’s motion to delay the trial.  "I don't know what to tell ya. I'm going to deny it unless you can give me a case I can hang my hat on, I think it’s reversible error.”

Attorney Anthony Rickman says that’s a big deal. "There was an error at the court level that was so severe that the outcome would have been different had that error not occurred.”

That means, if Taylor should be convicted, it could be tossed out on appeal.

Judge Fernandez offered some suggestions. "I think your witness needs to cancel her vacation out of the country.” 

“I'd be talking to her supervisor,” the judge continued.  “That’s just me.”

Rickman says if the state is forced to go to trial, they may agree to strike a deal with the defendant.

"As a law enforcement officer, that’s your job. You know you have a trial coming, you know you've been subpoenaed for this trial. Don't leave the country," offered Rickman.

Editor's note: The initial version of this story identified the witness as an officer. This version of the story has been updated to reflect her position as an analyst.

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