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Markel murder trial: star witness credibility under fire

Published: Oct. 2, 2019 at 4:50 PM CDT
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Defense attorneys for two people charged in the murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel spent Wednesday in court trying to destroy the credibility of the state’s star witness.

They continue to point out the accomplice, Luis Rivera, who flipped, will spend fewer than seven years behind bars for the murder. Rivera dodged a possible death sentence by agreeing to cooperate.

Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia, the accused triggerman, have been friends for 30 years.

Rivera testified he was paid a total of $37,000 for making two trips to Tallahassee with Garcia.

Defense attorneys asked why the payment was so high when he claims he didn’t pull the trigger.

"You didn’t do the job you were hired to do,” said Garcia’s attorney, Saam Zangeneh. "You simply were like a chauffeur correct?"

“Yes,” Rivera replied.

But it was Rivera’s gun that fired the fatal shot.

The defense is hoping to shift the blame to Rivera who is a member of the Latin Kings gang, but Rivera denies the gang was involved.

“Why you keep saying Latin Kings. They ain’t got nothing to do with this. You’re wrong, man. This got nothing to do with no Latin Kings. This is about me and Garcia. No Latin Kings,” said Rivera.

Defense attorneys questioned changing stories on who was driving when, whether a picture of the law professor was in black and white or color, and how the arrangements to pick up the payoff were made.

We learned Luis Rivera has five children, a partial explanation, perhaps, of why he said he couldn’t shoot the law professor in front of his kids.

Defense attorneys for Katherine Magbanua, who is accused of arranging the hit on the professor, asked for the second time that her case be separated from co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia. He’s the father of her children.

It was denied.