Monthly Archives: October 2013

No Verdict Today in Sean Taylor Case

The jury will be back tomorrow to decide Eric Rivera’s fate:

No verdict today in trial of accused Sean Taylor shooter Eric Rivera. Jurors will be back Friday.

Eric Rivera Jury Still Deliberating Sean Taylor Murder Charges

Eric Rivera on Monday

Eric Rivera on Monday

The jury only spent about an hour deliberating before breaking for the night last night, and have been back at it this morning. They have just asked a question, and its an interesting one about the Principal Theory. According to @patriciamazzei of the Miami Herald, who is live tweeting the Rivera trial today, they asked if both elements of principal theory must be proven. Perhaps they are having trouble finding one of the elements. Most questions don’t sound good for the defense, but this one certainly does. That’s far from meaning he’s about to walk, but it is a positive sign that the jury is struggling with something. Perhaps they aren’t convinced he’s the shooter, and are trying to determine if the principal theory applies.

Principal theory applies to anyone who knowingly aids, abets, or in any way encourages a crime to occur. Both elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt for it to apply. The elements are printed below in the standard jury instruction. I won’t be around this afternoon, so I’m afraid my updates will be slow coming. The jury has ordered lunch, so they have a while left to deliberate.


§ 777.011, Fla.Stat.

            If the defendant helped another person or persons [commit] [attempt to commit] a crime, the defendant is a principal and must be treated as if [he] [she] had done all the things the other person or persons did if:


1.         the defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act be done and


2.         the defendant did some act or said some word which was intended to and which did incite, cause, encourage, assist, or advise the other person or persons to actually [commit] [attempt to commit] the crime.


To be a principal, the defendant does not have to be present when the crime is [committed] [or] [attempted]. See State v. Dene, 533 So.2d 265 (Fla. 1988).

Eric Rivera’s Attorney Beginning Defense Closing Now in Sean Taylor Killing

You can watch Chris Brown do his closing live on NBC Miami:

The State’s closing is archived here:

And the Herald’s is live tweeting…

Eric Rivera Takes the Stand, Denies Killing Sean Taylor

Eric Rivera Testifies

Eric Rivera Testifies

Eric Rivera testified in his defense today, while fighting charges that he killed Sean Taylor. He testified that he had nothing to do with the shooting, that he was riding along with the other men, and never got out of the car at Taylor’s house. He testified that he did not even own a pair of shoes like the ones that kicked in Taylor’s door. Further, he testified that Venjah Hunte, on of the co-defendants, had the firearm, and confessed to firing the fatal shot. Hunte has already accepted a deal for taking part in the killing, and is believed to be available to testify on behalf of the state against Rivera. He was not called during the case-in-chief.

This is in stark contrast to the testimony played Monday from the recorded statement Rivera gave investigators. Rivera told them, on video tape, that he took part in the burglary, carried the gun, and shot Taylor. He testified today that the statement was coerced by police, that they fed him the information and suggested his family would be in danger unless he confessed. Rivera’s own words are the most damaging evidence against him. The State pounded him on cross, with both the inconsistencies in his statements, and he earlier testimony from another hearing that while he claimed the cops acted improperly, that the confession was true. The Detectives previously testified that Rivera was cooperative, and that no coercion was used or needed when he spoke to them.

The defense had to put him on the stand, the only way to counter the confession was to have him testify that he didn’t do it, and to explain why he would admit to a murder if he didn’t commit it. That is a hard sell to a jury, especially when he has made multiple inconsistent statements. The Defense had asked to put on an expert about false confessions. The judge had prohibited them from using that witness, though they asked the court to reconsider. The court runs the risk of creating a strong appellate issue if it precludes a key defense witness from testifying. The Defense will still get at least the standard jury instruction cautioning jurors to be careful when a Defendant’s out of court statement is put before them. The Defense is also asking for some special instructions for the jury, as well.

The court appears set to stay late today to try to wrap up testimony. That way arguments could begin in the morning. As of this posting, the Defendant is still on the stand. Mad About Trial has video, and archived video of all the testimony. The Miami Herald’s @DavidOvalle305 has a good live Tweet.

Eric Rivera on the Stand

Eric Rivera on the Stand with Attorney Janese Caruthers

UPDATE: Looks like arguments won’t begin until after lunch. Jury should still get case this afternoon, could reach a verdict today, or come back tomorrow. It may depend on how long arguments last. Latest update from Miami Herald includes testimony updates from yesterday evening.

Prosecution Rests in Sean Taylor Trial of Eric Rivera

After a week of testimony, the state rested its case against Eric Rivera. The State played a confession by Mr. Rivera as to his involvement in the case. The Defense claims that Mr. Rivera did not take part in the burglary, and that the cops coerced him to give them a confession. That statement by Rivera was video recorded, and played in court today. Rivera admits that he was the one who shot Taylor. The Defense is currently presenting its case, though I haven’t been able to find details online, yet. It is anticipated that closing arguments will begin Wednesday.

UPDATE: Here’s a summary of the first defense witness, Rivera’s father:

Florida AG Pam Bondi Trying to Keep Medical Marijuana Off Ballot

  • Medical Marijuana supports have started a ballot initiative for a statewide vote to allow medical marijuana
  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is trying to keep the initiative off the ballot, by challenging the language of ballot proposal


Medical Marijuana supporters have already garnered 100,000 signatures on a petition to put medical marijuana to a statewide vote in Florida. They have a long way to go to reach the more than 600,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, but they have until February to garnish the signatures. Supporters are being aided by attorney John Morgan, who has pledged considerable money to promote the movement.

Attorney General Pamela Bondi

Attorney General Pamela Bondi

Pam Bondi, the ranking law enforcement official in Florida, is pushing to have the initiative kept off the ballot. Before such a measure can be on the ballot for a vote, it must be reviewed by the Supreme Court of Florida. Bondi is urging the Supreme Court to keep the measure from being on the ballot, that is, to keep it from coming up for a vote by the citizens of Florida. Her complaint is that the summary of the law is misleading, which can be enough for the court to keep it off the ballot. However, her motive is certainly not clarification; rather to kill the initiative. She is an elected official, and she must see political gain from her constituents to convince her to take a stand against a drug initiative… albeit an initiative that only allows medically prescribed marijuana which would provide relief to hundreds of thousands of ill Floridians. Ironically, it is a political gambit that may come back to haunt, as American opinion is shifting in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Fort Myers Criminal Defense Attorney, Spencer Cordell, B.C.S.

Fort Myers Criminal Defense Attorney, Spencer Cordell, B.C.S. – Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney

Attorney Spencer Cordell

No Charges Against George Zimmerman for Domestic Dispute

The Sanford Police announced yesterday that after a review of the incident, no criminal charges were warranted. This was expected from the details available at the time of the dispute.

Alleged Sean Taylor Killer’s Confession Played in Court

The statement that Eric Rivera gave to detectives, admitting to taking part in the burglary and shooting Sean Taylor, was played in court today. The Defense has suggested the confession was coerced. The Detective testified that when he spoke to Rivera, that Rivera was relaxed and quite forthcoming, even “eager” to talk to them. The Defense will really mount its case when Rivera’s attorneys begin their cross-examination of the Detective. That’s where they will try to demonstrate coercion, through their questions to the Detective.

I can’t tell if the State concluded their questioning of the Detective from the stories I’ve read so far, but I would expect the cross to occur tomorrow.

Miami Cop Buys Food for Shoplifting Mom #goodcops

Cool story out of Miami: officer Vicki Thomas was called out for a shoplifting complaint. When the suspect told her how she could not afford food for her children, the cop took it on her own initiative to purchase some groceries for the family. She did her job, and cited the lady for the criminal charge, but she was nice enough not to arrest her for the misdemeanor. That’s in contrast to so many people who get thrown into jail for minor offenses and compound the problems. Hopefully the prosecutor and judge will also show her some sympathy.

Here’s the video story: