Attorneys: Jailhouse recordings of Howell Donaldson could jeopardize fair trial

Accused Seminole Heights serial killer Howell Trae Donaldson has complained about how miserable he is in jail. He told the judge about it months ago.

"I'm an ex-college athlete. I shouldn't be feeling like I’m 96 years old," Donaldson lamented.

Donaldson had the same complaints to his parents during a jailhouse call that was released to the media in April. "I am literally trying to get through every day."

But Hillsborough public defender Dana Herce-Fulgueira says the public has no right to hear those family conversations and she is fighting to keep them private.

Donaldson’s defense team says the negative pre-trial publicity is tainting the potential jury pool.

Monday, Herce-Fulgueira read some of the negative online comments to the judge: "You should be miserable…They need to bring back Old Sparky," read Herce-Fulgueira.

But Hillsborough Judge Mark Wolfe pushed back. "How do we know this is a potential juror?" he asked.

Herse acknowledged she did not know if the writer was a potential juror, but wants to protect the pool of jurors as much as possible.

Donaldson is accused of killing four innocent people in Seminole Heights in the fall of 2017. Now, 19 months later and with Donaldson's trial inching closer, there is a struggle to balance the public’s right to know versus the defendant’s due process.

Judge Wolfe ruled in favor of the defense and will not allow one particular jailhouse call to be made public. Wolfe said that if the defense wants other calls banned, he would take it on a case-by-case basis.