Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The federal death penalty trial of a suspect charged in a deadly shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport won’t begin until next summer — nearly three years after the crime took place, court papers obtained Thursday show.

U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez said in a written ruling that the start of trial for Paul Anthony Ciancia will be Aug. 23, 2016, rather than a previously proposed February 2016 date.

Federal public defense attorney Hilary L. Potashner had unsuccessfully argued for a December 2016 trial date.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna Curtis argued that a delay past August 2016 would be unfair to the victims in the case, including the widow of federal Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez, who was killed in the Nov. 1, 2013, attack that also left three other people wounded — two other TSA workers and one traveler.

Defense filings have signaled that Ciancia’s lawyers will raise mental health issues before the jury in an effort to save their client from execution.

Authorities allege Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 at LAX and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. He was allegedly carrying dozens of rounds of ammunition, along with a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in their traitorous minds.”

Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.

The 25-year-old New Jersey native, who had been living in the Los Angeles area for about 18 months, was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He is jailed without bail at the federal detention center downtown.

Prosecutors have told the judge they had accumulated more than 10,000 pages and 150 DVDs of discovery in the case, including material collected during a probe of Ciancia’s background in the small town of Pennsville, New Jersey, which they had presented to the defense.

—City News Service

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