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Murder defendant turns to high-profile lawyer
It will likely not be until the spring when the two defendants charged with the murder of 31-year-old Aileen Seiden will get their day in court.
And when they do, about four years after the April 2018 killing, one of them., Christina Araujo, 41, of Loxahatchee, will be represented by one of the most high-profile criminal defense attorneys in the state.
In a substitution of co-counsel motion approved Sept. 10, Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom granted Aruajo the right to be represented by Henry Coxe III, a partner in the Bedell Firm in Jacksonville, the oldest continuously operating law firm in the state.
He replaces Tallahassee attorney James Judkins, as co-counsel, and works alongside attorney Scott N. Richardson, a criminal defense attorney in Palm Beach County, where Araujo’s father, Col. Tony Araujo, serves in the top echelon of the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office.
Coxe has served as president of The Florida Bar and the Jacksonville Bar Association and has recently served on the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Florida Supreme Court Innocence Commission. He has been recognized with some of the highest awards offered to criminal defense attorneys.
“I have a long-time
policy not to discuss any pending matters publicly. I have never known a Court
not to disapprove of doing that,” he wrote in an email. “As to Mr. Judkins and Mr. Richardson, when
either has ever asked me to assist on anything I do so.”
Richardson responded to questions in a similar way. “In keeping with what I believe are the ethical
obligations of Florida attorneys, I respectfully decline to provide any comment
on a pending case,” he wrote in an email.
Araujo’s co-defendant in the case, Zachary Abell, 32, of North Miami Beach,, continues to be represented by criminal defense attorney Alex Morris, of Tallahassee, who is on the regional registry of conflict counsel.
Both defendants now face first degree homicide last week, opening the case for the possibility of the death penalty. A conviction of first degree murder requires the showing of premeditation in the case.
The two were initially charged with second-degree homicide for the killing of Seiden on or about April 23, 2018, and later extradited to the Franklin County Jail. They have remained held without bond in separate county jails ever since.
Seiden’s body was dumped in a cul-de-sac at a vacant subdivision off U.S. 98, a day after authorities say she was bludgeoned to death in an Eastpoint motel room where she stayed over the weekend with the two traveling companions from South Florida.
Within days, the two were picked up in South Florida by the Broward County sheriffs office, their whereabouts disclosed to authorities by a mutual friend in Davie with whom they had shared details of what had happened just a few days earlier.