Defense Insists Confession Was Coerced in Sean Taylor Murder

PHOTO: Eric Rivera Jr., left, stands in court, Oct. 15, 2013, in Miami, accused in the 2007 slaying of Washington Redskins star safety Sean Taylor, right.PlayWalter Michot/The Miami Herald|NFL/AP Photos
WATCH NFL Star's Alleged Killer's Confession Played in Court

After listening to five days of testimony from prosecution witnesses in the Sean Taylor murder trial, the defense began presenting its case that the man accused of killing the NFL star was coerced into giving a videotaped confession.

Eric Rivera, 23, was charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary in the November 2007 killing of Taylor, 24, who was a Pro Bowl safety for the Redskins and a standout college player at the University of Miami. Rivera has pleaded not guilty.

The cornerstone of Rivera's defense is that his detailed, videotaped confession was improperly coerced by overzealous investigators seeking to close a high-profile murder case.

Sean Taylor's Alleged Killer Says Confession Coerced

On Monday, Rivera's father testified that on the day his son was arrested it took him hours to find his son. Eric Rivera Sr. said he went to two local police departments and called his son's cellphone several times, but could not locate him.

It wasn't until hours later that Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents contacted Eric Rivera Sr. and brought him to the their office to meet his son. But by that time, the younger Rivera, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, had already been in custody for several hours and had admitted to the murder, police have testified.

When the elder Rivera finally saw his son, he said he appeared shaken and frightened.

"He had a worried, worried look. Like a scared look. Very tired look," the father said of his son.

But prosecutors said the younger Rivera willfully spoke with detectives without an attorney present about how he shot Taylor while Rivera and four friends attempted to burglarize the football star's Miami-area home. Assistant State Attorney Ray Araujo said Rivera drew diagrams of the house for investigators and told them he'd tossed the gun into the Florida Everglades.

Investigators believe it all started as a botched burglary, and that Rivera and four others wanted to steal cash while the house was empty. Rivera fired the fatal shot, police said, after Taylor confronted them inside his bedroom with a machete. Taylor's girlfriend and their young daughter were also home at the time of the incident.

The controversial confession tape was played last Thursday for jurors inside the Miami courtroom for the first time.

"How many times did you shoot him?" a detective asked.

"Once," Rivera replied.

Taylor was shot in the upper thigh, which severed his femoral artery. He died a day later from blood loss. When Rivera was asked by the detective where he shot Taylor, he said, "In the leg."

"What were you planning to go to Sean Taylor's house for?" the detective asks.

"Get the money and leave," Rivera said.

One of the other four suspects has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary. The other three are scheduled to go on trial at a later date.

Because Rivera was 17 at the time of the crime, his maximum possible sentence if convicted is life in prison rather than the death penalty.

Closing arguments in the Rivera case could come as early as Wednesday with the 12-person jury likely to begin deliberations later this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.