Houston attorney Chris Tritico demands better defense for his daughter's accused killer

On December 6th, 2020 native Houstonian Maria Tritico was sitting in a Palm Beach Park peacefully watching her fiancé play frisbee when a bullet suddenly, inexplicably struck her body. She did not survive.

The beloved 32-year-old artist and teacher was to be married on New Year's Eve, as it turned out, just 14 days after breathing for the last time.

Fast-forward 17 excruciating months to a Florida courtroom, where Paula Augustus appeared to plead for a new attorney to represent her teenage grandson, facing life in prison for the fatal shooting of Maria Tritico.

"He is here to do a job, and he should do it and not play with somebody's life. If you are going to do it, do it and if not, step down and let someone else do it."


Prosecutors cited a near-complete lack of communication by the defense lawyer with them, the accused, and his family. What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary.

Maria's father, a well-known Houston attorney, and FOX 26 Legal Analyst Chris Tritico stepped to the mic and began advocating for the defendant, the very same man accused of ending his daughter's life.

"I am not here today asking for him to be acquitted. I expect him to be convicted and appropriately punished, but along the way he needs a lawyer who is going to do the things necessary to protect his rights and I ask you to give him a lawyer who is going to do that, who is going to challenge the state, who is going to protect his interest, he said. "Our constitution requires it. It's what we stand for. It's what our justice system requires and demands. And for God's sake, my family, my daughter. It means more than what he is getting."


Exactly six seconds later, the Judge terminated the negligent defense lawyer's participation in the case.

Afterward, Chris Tritico, lawyer and heartbroken father, called his intervention "the hardest thing" he has ever done.

"When a jury says you are guilty, I want it because the facts were there and the law was there. Not because somebody didn't do their job," said Tritico. "And I couldn't sleep at night if that's what happened. It's easy to go through life saying you believe in something, but you get just a few chances in life to stand up for what you believe in."


It is a deeply principled, but gut-wrenching bottom-line which Tritico believes his Maria would back to the fullest.

"The constitution has to work for everybody, including the young man who murdered my daughter," said Tritico.

The defendant, Amari Wellons just turned 18 and is being tried as an adult.

After the hearing, Wellons' grandmother hugged Tritico and thanked him before leaving to attend to Amari's brother, who FOX 26 has learned, was murdered the night before.