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.