Defendant Eric Rivera Takes Stand in Own Defense in Sean Taylor Murder Trial

The man accused of fatally shooting NFL star Sean Taylor during a failed 2007 burglary took the stand in his own defense Tuesday

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013  |  Updated 12:30 AM EDT
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The man accused of fatally shooting NFL star Sean Taylor during a failed 2007 burglary took the stand in his own defense Tuesday. NBC 6's Hank Tester reports.

The man accused of fatally shooting NFL star Sean Taylor during a failed 2007 burglary took the stand in his own defense Tuesday. NBC 6's Hank Tester reports.

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The man accused of fatally shooting NFL star Sean Taylor during a failed 2007 burglary took the stand in his own defense Tuesday.

Eric Rivera Jr. testified that he didn't shoot Taylor during the burglary and blamed it on one of the other men charged in the crime.

Rivera, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and burglary in the death of Taylor. Rivera, who was 17 at the time of the crime, faces life in prison if convicted.

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During his testimony, Rivera claimed Venjah Hunte, who pleaded guilty to his role in the crime in 2009, was responsible for the shooting.

"I basically remember everything from that night," Rivera said. "Venjah had the gun in his hand."

Rivera testified that Hunte and one of the other defendants went into the house as he waited in the car and were gone for just a couple minutes.

"I just thought they were gonna go in get the money and come back out," Rivera said. He said he wasn't expecting to get any of the money.

Prosecutors say Taylor was shot by Rivera, who confessed to the crime. Rivera's attorneys say the confession was coerced.

During his testimony Tuesday, Rivera claimed he confessed after officers told him his mother was hospitalized. Rivera's lawyer asked him why he did not tell the truth when he said – in a taped confession that prosecutors have played in the trial – that he committed the crime.

"Different circumstances. At that time I was not concerned about going to jail. I was concerned about my family," Rivera said.

He said he thought they might be in danger.

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But Rivera also testified, as he put it, "I was just thinking everyone is going to jail. I was just thinking it was over with."
 
In addition to Rivera and Hunte, three other people from the Fort Myers area were charged in the case. The others will go on trial later.
 
Earlier testimony indicated the group drove to Miami intending to burglarize Taylor's home because they believed he kept a lot of cash on hand. They did not think Taylor would be there.

Taylor confronted the intruders with a machete and was shot. He died from his wounds the next day.

Prosecutors rested their case on Monday with testimony from Dr. Satish Chundru, the assistant Miami-Dade medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Taylor.

Chundru testified that Taylor was clinically dead upon arrival to the emergency room but was kept alive until the next day. He also testified that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the lower extremities.

"After a few minutes of a lot of blood loss, your brain no longer gets oxygen and that's when your body starts shutting down," said Chundru, who is now a deputy medical examiner in Travis County, Texas.

Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl safety for the Washington Redskins, had starred at the University of Miami, helping the Hurricanes to the national championship in 2001.

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