MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s day two of testimony in the trial of the man who allegedly shot and killed former UM and NFL star Sean Taylor during a 2007 attempted burglary.
Jurors heard opening statements Monday in the trial of 23-year-old Eric Rivera Jr. and testimony from an investigator who said footprints were found at the crime scene that were later matched to sneakers Rivera wore that night.
A videotaped confession by Rivera was also the focus in court Monday.
During his opening statement, Assistant State Attorney Ray Araujo told the 12 jurors and four alternates that Rivera voluntarily spoke with detectives without an attorney present about how he shot Taylor while he and four friends attempted to burglarize the football star’s Palmetto Bay home.
Rivera even drew diagrams of the rooms and where everyone was at the time, Araujo said.
On Tuesday, Taylor’s half-sister Sasha Johnson testified Rivera played for a little league football team in Fort Myers coached by her father. Johnson also dated the brother of another man charged in Taylor’s death.
Johnson says yet another suspect attended her October 2007 birthday party during which Taylor gave her $10,000 in cash. Prosecutors said the group thought they could steal more cash by burglarizing Taylor’s home.
“Everything was in the purse. When I pulled it out, he was right there and he saw it,” Johnson testified Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Rivera and the others drove across the state to Miami intending to burglarize Taylor’s home, believing he kept large amounts of cash there. But, prosecutors say, the group didn’t realize Taylor was home with an injury instead of at a Redskins game that Thanksgiving weekend and he was shot during a confrontation after they broke in.
Rivera, Mitchell, Charles Wardlow and Timothy Brown have all pleaded not guilty. The fifth suspect, Venjah Hunte, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary and may testify against the others. Rivera, the first to go to trial, faces a potential life prison sentence if convicted.
Also Tuesday, another acquaintance of Rivera’s testified that she saw Rivera and Charles Wardlow drive away from a car rental facility in a rented black Toyota Highlander that investigators say was used in the crime. Alexia Anderson said the mother of a mutual friend rented them the vehicle because they were underage. Rivera was only 17 when Taylor was killed.
“They drove away in it,” Anderson testified.
“Who was actually driving?” asked Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin.
“Eric Rivera,” she replied.
Another witness, Miami-Dade Police Department forensics expert John Mancini, said footwear impressions at various places in Taylor’s home matched specific types of Reebok and Nike sneakers. Prosecutors say Rivera was wearing Nike Shox sneakers that night and Mitchell had on the Reeboks, which were seized from his home.
Mancini also said two identical 9mm bullet casings were found inside the home, one outside Taylor’s bedroom and one on a sofa near a rear sliding glass door downstairs. Investigators say Rivera shot out the sliding glass door so the group could escape. But the gun itself, they say, was thrown into the Everglades and has never been recovered.
Taylor, 24 when he died, was a Pro Bowl safety for the Redskins who had previously been a popular, locally grown star at the University of Miami. The Redskins drafted Taylor with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft and he signed an $18 million contract.
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