MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) –The defense has rested in the trial of a teenager charged with murdering a fellow student at Coral Gables High School in 2009.
Defense attorneys for Andy Rodriguez rested their case after Judge Dava Tunis ruled the jury would not hear testimony of other students regarding the victim’s previous bully-type behavior.
Judge Tunis said the proposed testimony was irrelevant because there’s no evidence Rodriguez knew of it and it “does not go to his state of mind” at the time of the alleged crime.
Rodriguez’s defense team had tried to put witnesses on the stand who would have said the alleged victim, Juan Carlos Rivera, was looking for fights in the first days of school where he was a new student.
Judge Dava Tunis heard student Ronald Rosa describe multiple encounters with Rivera who Rosa said spat at his feet and made obscene gestures. Rosa told the judge he thought Rivera would have attacked him and two other students.
The defense also sought to recall Rivera’s girlfriend who would testify she stopped giving Rivera rides to school because of his propensity for confrontations. Judge Tunis rejected that motion as well.
Since the defense rested their case Friday afternoon, closing arguments are expected to begin Monday morning.
A forensic pathology expert had previously boosted the self-defense case being made in the trial of a teenager charged with murdering a fellow student at Coral Gables High in 2009.
Dr. John Marraccini, former Chief Medical Examiner for Palm Beach County, testified that forensic evidence and school security video from the September, 2009 incident supported Andy Rodriguez’s claim that he was acting in self-defense when he fatally stabbed Juan Carlos Rivera in a school hallway.
Marracini said that blood spatter found on the floor and low on the wall of the hallway is consistent with Rodriguez’s statement to police that Rivera had him pinned from behind, on the floor, and was applying a choke hold when he drew a knife from his pocket and lashed out.
Marraccini demonstrated, using defense attorney Lane Abraham as a model, how Rodriguez could have reached behind his back and over his shoulder to stab Rivera. The victim, Rivera, was stabbed twice in the back, once in the side, and twice in the chest with the fatal wound perforated his heart.
Dr. Marracini also testified that security video from after the stabbing showed Rivera continuing to be the aggressor, chasing a retreating Rodriguez into a school courtyard.
Rodriguez’s grandmother, Elsa Alfonso, also testified Thursday. She said that when the family told him in a police interview room that Rivera was dead, “He said he had disgraced himself and his future and he cried.”
Alfonso began weeping on the witness stand, as did Rodriguez as he watched from the defense table.
The defense is expected to conclude its case Friday. It intends to call student witnesses who may support Rodriguez’s description of events the day of the stabbing, and hopes to present evidence that Rivera was something of a swaggering bully, who had been involved in a previous conflict in the school cafeteria.
The state claims Rodriguez killed Rivera in a jealous rage over a girl.