|Confession Questioned in Slaying of NFL's Sean Taylor|
|By GIO BENITEZ (@GioBenitez) and ANTHONY CASTELLANO (@AntCastellano)||Oct 22, 2013, 2:59 AM|
Police coerced a videotaped confession from the man accused of killing Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, defense attorneys told a Miami court Monday.
Eric Rivera, 23, is 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.
Defense attorney Janese Caruther said his client was "ambushed" by a team of investigators who had little evidence and needed someone to take the fall in the high-profile case.
"The detectives were under such pressure to close this investigation, that they forced my client to confess to this crime," Caruther said.
But Assistant State Attorney Ray Araujo told the 12 jurors and four alternates during opening statements that Rivera voluntarily spoke with detectives without an attorney about how he shot Taylor while he and four friends attempted to burglarize the football star's Miami-area home.
Araujo said Rivera, who has pleaded not guilty, drew diagrams of the house for investigators and told them he tossed the gun into the Florida Everglades. Araujo showed the jury casts of what he said are Rivera's footprints from the crime scene.
"He describes in detail the plan, how they carried it out, who was involved, everything," Araujo said. "This defendant confessed to the murder of Sean Taylor, that he committed it."
Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, testified Monday in Miami to describe the night Taylor was shot in their home, feet away from their infant daughter.
Garcia, the niece of actor Andy Garcia, recounted the night of the shooting, testifying that Taylor woke her up and told her to call police because he heard a noise. Taylor grabbed a machete by the bed when an intruder kicked open the bedroom door, according to Garcia.
"I heard a really loud noise, very similar to a gunshot, and I screamed. I got up and I saw Sean laying faced down, surrounded by blood," she testified.
Taylor was shot in the upper thigh, which severed his femoral artery. He died the next day from blood lose. Garcia said she never saw the shooter.
Prosecutor Araujo told jurors, "Sean Taylor, defending himself, defending his family, defending his home, is shot by this defendant."
In addition to the alleged confession, Araujo said trial evidence will show cellphones belonging to the suspects were tracked near Taylor's house.
Araujo said investigators zeroed in on Rivera and the others because some in the group had been to Taylor's home before, once for a birthday party for his sister in which Taylor was seen giving her $10,000 cash. The suspects, Araujo said, thought there was a great deal of cash in Taylor's house.
One of the other four suspects has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges and could testify against Rivera. 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.