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Jaycee Dugard case: surprise 'not guilty' plea hints at delay tactics ahead

Phillip Garrido, accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard in 1991 at age 11, pleaded not guilty Thursday and is contesting the legitimacy of his indictment, signaling a bid to delay the case.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / April 8, 2011

Susan Gellman, the court-appointed attorney for Phillip Garrido, talks with reporters after entering a not guilty plea for her client during an arraignment hearing in Placerville, Calif., Thursday. Judge Douglas Phimister set a trial date of Aug. 1 for Garrido and his wife, Nancy, who both face multiple charges in the 1991 kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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Los Angeles

The unexpected plea of "not guilty" Thursday by Phillip Garrido, who is accused of kidnapping Jaycee Dugard at age 11 and holding her captive for 18 years, has illustrated that this case – once considered somewhat straightforward – could become a tangle of legal procedures.

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The "not guilty" plea has exposed a rift between the lawyer for Mr. Garrido and the lawyer for his wife, Nancy. Ms. Garrido's lawyer, Stephen Tapson, had announced earlier in the week that Mr. Garrido intended to plead guilty. The two lawyers exchanged heated words outside the court in Placerville, Calif., Thursday.

In addition, the plea came as Mr. Garrido's lawyer, public defender Susan Gellman, claimed that the grand jury that indicted the couple in September was improperly selected. The complaint is based on the jury's racial and geographic makeup. The complaint is common in high-profile cases, a district attorney told the Los Angeles Times, and it could be denied, cause a slight delay so another jury can be selected, or result in a months-long delay as the trial is moved to another venue.

"Delay" could the be the key word in the case. Mr. Garrido might be trying to delay prison time, because the evidence against him is very strong, says Michelle Dempsey, a professor at Villanova School of Law in Pennsylvania. “Defendants don’t want to plead guilty any earlier than they have to,” she says.

There are other motivations for Mr. Garrido to try to draw things out, as well, says Philip Anthony, CEO of DecisionQuest, a trial research and consulting firm based in 10 US cities.

[Editor's note: Mr. Anthony's name was incorrect in the original.]

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