Eric Rivera Jr. never flinched as a prosecutor laid out the case against him in the 2007 shooting death of NFL star Sean Taylor in a closing argument Wednesday, while his defense attorney argued that police coerced Rivera into giving a false confession on tape.
"He shot Sean Taylor and Sean Taylor fell to the floor mortally wounded and immediately began bleeding to death,” prosecutor Reid Rubin said of Rivera, 23.
He is charged with first-degree murder and burglary in the death of the Washington Redskins safety. Rivera, who was 17 at the time of the crime, faces life in prison if convicted.
Closing arguments concluded Wednesday afternoon. The jury began its deliberations shortly thereafter before going home for the night, and will return Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Prosecutors say Taylor was shot by Rivera, who traveled with four other men from Fort Myers to burglarize Taylor's Palmetto Bay home. The group didn't believe Taylor would be home.
Taylor, who was at home nursing an injury, confronted the men with a machete and was shot. He died the next day from his injuries.
"There's only one reason to bring a gun, it's insurance, it's for intimidation, it's for their protection, it's to do whatever is necessary, whatever it takes to get the money,” Rubin said.
Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl safety for the Redskins, had starred at the University of Miami, helping the Hurricanes to the national championship in 2001.
One of the suspects, Venjah Hunte, has already pleaded guilty to his role in the crime. The others will head to trial later.
Closing Arguments Expected in Sean Taylor Murder Trial
The most dramatic testimony came Tuesday, when Rivera took the stand in his own defense and claimed he didn't participate in the crime and had unwillingly traveled to Taylor's home.
Rivera claimed Hunte was the trigger man, and said he stayed in the car during the burglary. He also said his confession to police after his arrest was coerced.
On Wednesday the prosecutor once again played parts of Rivera's taped confession for the jury. Rivera's lawyer, Christopher Brown, argued that police fed Rivera information about the crime, didn't record that part, and coerced him to give a false confession on tape.
"They created a secret interrogation situation away from family, away from friends, away from parents, and they chose not to record it so you wouldn't be able to see and hear these things because they count on the fact that you, the jury, will say they're police officers, I will believe them over this kid,” Brown said.
Rubin sought to convince jurors otherwise.
Defendant Testifies in Sean Taylor Murder Trial
"Do you really believe that they're sitting there, feeding him a lot of information?” Rubin said. “He tells them things they don't even know."
Without DNA evidence, fingerprints putting Rivera at the crime scene, or a murder weapon, the case against Rivera hinges almost entirely on whether the jury accepts his confession as legitimate. The defense has spent the entire trial trying to discredit that confession.
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