FL v. Amato: The Defense’s Case

Posted at 1:25 PM, July 30, 2019 and last updated 6:48 PM, August 10, 2023

By: Court TV Staff –

Jury selection continues in the case against Grant Amato, before Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, on Thursday, July 18, 2019.
Amato is a Chuluota resident, accused of killing his family.
(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)


Grant Amato’s defense team has stated publicly that no physical evidence exists linking Grant to the murders. The defendant has undergone evaluation by a neurologist and/or psychologist and received approval from the court to be transported to a facility for an MRI of his brain, according to court filings.

The defense also hopes to poke holes in the State’s timeline by introducing timestamp evidence gathered from the victims’ smartphones.



Defense’s Proposed Witness List

  • Jason Amato (oldest brother of Grant)
  • Deputy Todd Moderson SCSO
  • Erika Johannsen Express Scripts  (interviewed Grant for a job the day after incident)
  • Rodney Funke (neighbor)
  • Jericho Fine (friend)
  • Blake Turpin (friend)
  • Jessica Edwards Bean
  • Zach Young
  • Edward Castro
  • Marcos Colon
  • Donna Amato (Grant’s aunt)
  • Troy Amato (Grant’s uncle)
  • Connor Amato
  • Meaghan Amato
  • Robin Amato
  • Kelsey Clonts Baker
  • Thomas Pechacek
  • Ericka Johansen
  • Terri Robertson
  • Sam Kohrs (works at Florida Pawn & Gun)




According a defense motion:

  • USAA bank records show Chad used his smartphone banking application with the fingerprint reader at 11:08pm on January 24, 2019;
  • Cellphone records show a text message from Cody to Chad at 11:51PM on January 24 saying “Dad, for the third time now, delete the Blink app”;
  • Cell phone records show a Blink application was uninstalled on Chad’s phone on January 25, 2019 at 12:31AM.


Motions in Limine

Through a flurry of motions, the defense has tried to keep many categories of the circumstantial evidence away from jurors.


  • A judge granted Defense’s Motion in Limine 6/17/19 on the following issues:
    • Any reference to Grant Amato being dismissed from graduate school;
    • Any reference to a prior arrest for grand theft of medication;
    • Any reference to Grant losing his nursing position;
    • Any reference to the firearm found in Maitland by police.


  • The judge reserved judgement on the following:
    • References to “cam girl,” or the money spent on pornographic content by Defendant;
    • Statements made by Cody to his girlfriend, Sloan Young;
    • Any reference to Grant seeking treatment at a rehabilitation facility;
    • Any reference to the life insurance policies for the victims.


  • A motion to suppress evidence found in the house claiming deputies entered “illegally” without knowledge of “exigent circumstances” was denied.


During jury selection, Assistant Public Defender Jeff Dowdy wanted to ask potential jurors about child abuse, hinting this may be part of the defense’s case.


Several family members told police Chad Amato could be abusive to his children at times. Jason Amato said he moved out of the house because of abuse and problems getting along with Chad. Chad was not Jason’s biological father but adopted him at age 3, according to Jason’s statement to police. Jason said he never knew Chad to physically abuse Cody or Grant and said sexual abuse was never a factor. During the recorded police interview video when Jason and Cody discussed the deaths, the two talk about the problems caused by Chad. Ultimately, Jason calls him a “good man” who loved Grant and did not deserve to die.