WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge has reluctantly delayed the trial of a woman accused of dressing as a clown and fatally shooting her lover’s wife more than 30 years ago after defense attorneys said they were having trouble contacting witnesses.
Sheila Keen-Warren’s trial was scheduled to begin on June 3. But on Tuesday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer agreed to what could be a four-month delay, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Suskauer said he has already cleared his schedule, delaying other trials and hearings so he can preside over a three-week trial.
“Think of the impact this has on me. I have a duty to the public,” Suskauer told attorneys. “You also have the family of a victim who has long awaited justice.”
This is the sixth time the trial has been postponed.
It was May 1990 when Marlene Warren opened her door and was shot in the face by a clown delivering carnations and balloons to her home in Wellington, a suburb of West Palm Beach, court records show.
The former Sheila Keen, who was rumored to be having an affair with Marlene Warren’s husband Michael Warren, was considered a suspect, but the case against her seemed thin. Two nights before the murder, a woman showed up at a costume shop to tell salespeople she urgently needed a clown costume, orange wig, white gloves, red nose and enough white makeup to completely cover her face. One of the employees identified her in a photo, but the other employee wasn’t sure.
She later married Michael Warren and they were living in Virginia when investigators said DNA provided the evidence they needed to arrest her in 2017.
Assistant State’s Attorney Reid Scott agreed the latest delay was unavoidable.
“I want this defendant to be fully prepared for his trial,” Scott said. “I don’t want to deal with appeal issues.”
The defense team – Richard Lubin, Greg Rosenfeld and Amy Morse – blamed Scott, writing that he failed to provide them with the names and addresses of key witnesses who are now scattered across the country.
The defense team also said they needed to see evidence, including hair fibers, two balloons, a Publix bag and car rental papers, which were not in an evidence locker at the sheriff’s office. Those items had been sent to forensics for further examination, they said.
“Usually a criminal prosecution is simple: the police investigate a crime, the police arrest a suspect, and the state prosecutes the suspect,” but this case was not handled that way, they wrote.
“After the arrest, the police and the state continued their investigation,” they wrote. “This reverse pursuit has hampered Ms. Keen-Warren’s ability to prepare for trial.”
Because so much time has passed since the murder, sworn depositions have been taken from some witnesses who cannot or will not appear.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” Lubin told the newspaper. “It is a long-standing event. The witnesses are between 60, 70 and 80 years old. Some of them are dead. Others are weakened.
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