MIAMI (AP) — A 23-year-old man was convicted of second-degree murder Monday in the 2007 slaying of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor during what witnesses say was a botched burglary.
The jury deliberated about 16 hours over four days before returning the verdict in the trial of Eric Rivera Jr., who admitted in a videotaped confession to police days after Taylor’s death that he fired the fatal shot after kicking in the bedroom door. At the trial, he said on the witness stand that his confession was given only under police pressure and amid purported threats to his family.
Rivera was also convicted of armed burglary.
Rivera, who was 17 at the time of the slaying, could be sentenced to life in prison.
Rivera sat quietly at the defense table with his lawyers after the verdict was announced, showing no reaction or emotion. The courtroom was packed with Taylor and Rivera family members, but there were no outbursts.
Neither prosecutors, Taylor’s family nor the family of the football player’s girlfriend would comment after the hearing.
In the confession, Rivera said the group of five young men, all from the Fort Myers area, had driven to Taylor’s house planning to steal large amounts of cash he kept inside. They thought Taylor, 24, would be out of town at a game against Tampa Bay, but didn’t realize until it was too late that he was home with a knee injury. Taylor’s then-girlfriend, Jackie Garcia Haley, and their 18-month-old daughter, were also home at the time. They were not hurt.
Four other men were also charged in the case and three will be tried later. Venjah Hunte, 25, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges in a deal that calls for a 29-year prison sentence.
Testifying in his own defense, Rivera claimed it was Hunte who brought the 9mm handgun and who shot Taylor. Rivera insisted that he was not told about the burglary plot until the group was driving across Alligator Alley toward Miami, and that he stayed in the car outside Taylor’s house the whole time.
The murder weapon was never found. Police say it was stuffed in a sock and thrown into the Everglades.
Taylor, a Pro Bowl safety who had starred at the University of Miami, was shot in the upper thigh, damaging his femoral artery and causing massive blood loss. Witnesses say Taylor was shot when he confronted the group with a machete outside his bedroom. A medical examiner said he was essentially dead on arrival at a hospital on Nov. 26, 2007, although doctors did manage to restart his heart for a while.
Aside from Rivera’s confession, police found shoe prints outside Taylor’s home that matched sneakers some in the group were wearing that night. Witnesses testified Rivera was seen driving a rented black Toyota Highlander believed used in the crime, and another witness said the group of five had burglary tools when they came to her house after Taylor was shot.
Taylor, a first-round Redskins draft pick in 2004, signed an $18 million contract with the team and was becoming one of the NFL’s top defensive players when he was slain. Several witnesses, including Garcia Haley, testified that he liked to keep large amounts of cash around his Miami house.
One of the men charged in the slaying, 25-year-old Jason Mitchell, attended a birthday party a few weeks earlier at the house for Taylor’s half-sister, Sasha Johnson — who lived in Fort Myers and knew Rivera. She testified that Taylor gave her a purse containing $10,000 in cash at the party, which was witnessed by all the guests.
That event put the wheels in motion for the burglary plot, witnesses said. Rivera himself testified that some in the group thought they would get between $100,000 and $200,000 to split up.
Also charged and awaiting trial are Mitchell, Charles Wardlow, 24, and 22-year-old Timothy Brown.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/7-10/14)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Nite | to the tune of @cnn 😞
1 of 25
2. Got so much work to do but I just wanna stay in bed and binge watch #Gameofthrones and start the new season of #OnceUponATime. I know I can't be the only one. Right? Ha 💤🦁🍂 #saturday
2 of 25
3. Mommy's weekend turn up ❤️👶🏾💕🍼 Wouldn't trade it for nothing. #TeamNoSleep lol #HesMyBiggestBlessing ✨
3 of 25
4. One of them oh shit mont we made it feelings … this shit still be unreal 💯💪🏾 @remyboymonty1738
4 of 25
5. Tickets Available October 14 @ticketmaster.
5 of 25
6. People magazine Home edition has raided my house! Get a sneak peek into the bedroom life of the Leakes and see other parts of my home now at PEOPLE.COM
6 of 25
7. They want to kick you when you down, but kick it when you up
7 of 25
8. Got my advance copy of #Mafia3 at @gamestop. Get yours via link in the bio #Mafia3 #Ad
8 of 25
9. This is some of the cast and our diverse team of writers in the writer's room creating funny sh*t for @nbcmarlon what a fun room! Lots of jokes, great stories and having a great time doing what we love... making people laugh and feel something. Look out for our show next year @nbcmarlon we bringing sitcoms back to NBC
9 of 25
10. #HappySunday☀️Thank you @4everbrandy101 💛💡💛
10 of 25
11. Happy to be back in Central Falls, RI breaking ground for the One Stop Health Center and hosting a local community event with #Vaseline.
11 of 25
12. Thank you all in advance 💋💋💋 #Repost @urbansvintage・・・#TarajiPHenson's memoir #AroundTheWayGirl will be available everywhere TODAY October 11th! Will you be purchasing a copy? #UrbansVintage
12 of 25
13. Moms got my back
13 of 25
14. @galore dinner party glo ✨ thanks to @styledbygiigii
14 of 25
15. 🌹#ThisIsWhatTheTruthFeelsLikeTOUR #forevereve
15 of 25
16. Yes, all those videos I've been posting have led to this: the introduction of skincare to @TYRABeauty! This is the rundown on the new line:Years of research and beauty tips I live by led me to produce the most effective and delightful skincare out there. I'm all about taking really good care of my skin, so I can look like I'm aging in #TyraYears and go filter free on Instagram when I feel like it! Now, it's your turn. ✨My Mama always told me not to wash my face with just my hands. "Tyra, girl, you're just moving the dirt around!" And I've listened. First up is The Clean Machine.... ...a 3-in-1 foaming face wash that cleanses, removes makeup and purified your skin. It has patented technology - a attached Turbo Cleansing Tool - to give you that deep clean that makes your skin feel super fresh. Wanna know more? Yeah, baby. Click that link in my bio.
16 of 25
17. On set of #beingmaryjane like... ❤️😬💃🏾
17 of 25
18. #carouselofhope@yvetteshelton100@makeupbylatrice @thestacetheface@marialuciahohan24
18 of 25
19. I refuse to let a little cold stop me from my daily routines to greatness. #onlythestrongsurvive #warriors
19 of 25
20. Big things begin with big THINKING... #BusinessEthics #SetLife 🎥
20 of 25
21. Goodnight - here's a song
21 of 25
22. Words can't explain the feeling that I have right now.....God is good. look momma I made it. #Harts #Blessed #WhatNow #comedicrockstarshit #4DaysAway
22 of 25
23. I tried to get a better video with out the nasty bib but she started getting mad at me..lol! Big cuz @the_queen_caitlin trying to show her what to do. #MamasToots #HeirBear👑💜
23 of 25
24. Gorgeous Serena joined Beyoncé in Formation last night on stage in New Jersey!!!
24 of 25
25. 😜 @lifeofdesiigner & @rockohill
25 of 25