MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The jury in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting former UM star and Washington Redskins play Sean Taylor finished deliberating for the day.
Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, jurors finished deliberating. They are expected to return Thursday morning.
In a closing argument, a prosecutor urged the panel to rely primarily on Eric Rivera Jr.’s confession days after the crime, but Rivera testified in his own defense that police pressured him to confess and insisted that he didn’t even go inside Taylor’s Miami-area home that night. Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin said Rivera’s story was full of holes and jurors should consider his Nov. 30, 2007, videotaped confession overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
“He swore to God to tell the truth, and the truth is, he shot Sean Taylor. Nobody threatened him in any way possible,” Rubin said. “When you heard him testify, you have every right to believe that he lied to your faces.”
Earlier Wednesday, Judge Dennis Murphy instructed four alternate jurors, who were excused, not to discuss the case with anyone in the event they should have to be called back.
The judge told the jury he will allow them to deliberate until later Wednesday and then send them home if they have not reached a verdict.
The closing arguments will see each side got 1.5 hours with the state going first, then the defense, then a rebuttal from the state.
Rivera faces charges of 1st degree murder, but the jury can also convict on lesser included charges of 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, burglary with a battery, and trespassing.
Tuesday, Rivera waived his right to remain silent and took the stand in his own defense.
He testified that his previous confession to police was false and that he never went in Taylor’s house the night he was killed. Rivera claimed he didn’t know he was being taken to Taylor’s home.
Rivera told the jury he stayed in the car during the botched burglary and that another man, Venjah Hunt, was the shooter.
Prosecutors say Taylor was shot by Rivera as he and four others from the Fort Myers area tried to burglarize the Pro Bowl player’s house in an effort to make off with tens of thousands of dollars in cash they believed they would find there.
The group also mistakenly believed that no one would be home, because Taylor had a football game that Thanksgiving weekend. An injury, however, kept him away from the game.
The evidence against Rivera includes a tennis shoe print on the kicked in door of Taylor’s bedroom that matches shoes Rivera was wearing, cell phone records that put Rivera in the area, testimony from acquaintances from Fort Myers, and that videotaped confession that Rivera gave police.
Three of the five defendants in the Taylor murder case await trial. A fourth plead guilty earlier, accepting a 29 year sentence, and agreeing to cooperate against the others if called to testify.
If convicted, Rivera faces life in prison. Because he was a teenager at the time of the alleged murder, the death penalty is not an option.
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