Huffpost Miami

Defense Opens In Sean Taylor Murder Trial

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MIAMI -- MIAMI (AP) — The father of a man on trial in the slaying of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor testifies that it took him hours to find his son the day he was arrested.

Eric Rivera Sr. said Monday he visited two Fort Myers-area police departments and called his son's cell phone several times but could not locate him. Eventually, the father says Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents came to his house and took him to see his son at their offices.

Eric Rivera Jr. faces life in prison if convicted of shooting Taylor during a botched burglary attempt. Prosecutors rested their case earlier Monday.

Eric Rivera Jr. confessed to police, but his lawyers say it was improperly coerced.

Taylor was a Pro Bowl safety and college standout at the University of Miami.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Prosecutors rested their main case Monday in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, after a medical examiner testified that Taylor died of massive blood loss from a damaged femoral artery.

Defense lawyers for 23-year-old Eric Rivera Jr. will begin putting on their case Monday afternoon, and they are expected to call Rivera family members and police officers to testify. It's not clear if Rivera himself will take the stand.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy said he expects closing arguments by Wednesday.

The only prosecution witness Monday was Dr. Satish Chundru, who performed the autopsy on Taylor after he died Nov. 26, 2007. Chundru said the 9mm bullet pierced Taylor's upper right thigh, severely damaging the artery, and then lodged in his left thigh.

Hospital records showed that Taylor lost so much blood so quickly that he was essentially dead on arrival, even though doctors managed to restart his heart and worked to repair the damaged artery.

"After a few minutes of a lot of blood loss, your brain no longer gets oxygen and that's when your body starts shutting down," said Chundru, who is now a deputy medical examiner in Travis County, Texas.

Jurors were shown several autopsy photos, but they were not visible to courtroom spectators.

Authorities say Rivera and four other men from the Fort Myers area traveled across the state hoping to burglarize Taylor's Miami-area home, where they thought he kept large amounts of cash. Rivera fired the fatal shot, police said, after Taylor confronted them outside his bedroom with a machete.

Rivera told police in a recorded confession that the group thought Taylor would not be home because the Redskins had a game that weekend at Tampa Bay. But the Pro Bowl safety was home nursing a knee injury, along with his then-girlfriend Jackie Garcia and their 18-month-old daughter. Neither of them was injured.

The centerpiece of the prosecution case is that Rivera confession, in which he laid out the details of what happened that night and even drew a diagram for investigators. Defense lawyers insist the confession was false and coerced by overzealous officers looking to close a high-profile case.

Taylor, 24, was one of the top defensive players in the NFL when he was slain. Previously he was a star player at the University of Miami.


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