After four days of deliberations, a Miami jury has found Eric Rivera Jr. guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the 2007 shooting death of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor.
Rivera, 23, and four other men were accused of the shooting. Three pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial; a fourth is in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. The 12-member jury also found Rivera guilty of a gun charge, according to the Miami Herald. Rivera had been charged with first-degree murder, but still could face life in prison despite the second-degree finding.
Taylor, who was in Florida recovering from a knee injury, surprised intruders inside his Palmetto Bay, Fla., home on Nov. 26, 2007. Taylor, his girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter were awakened by the burglars and Taylor was shot as he entered a hallway with a machete. The bullet struck his femoral artery and he suffered massive blood loss, dying the next day.
Taylor’s girlfriend, Jackie Garcia Haley, had delivered powerful, emotional testimony about the break-in last week and she was in the courtroom today. As the verdict was read, she bent over, according to the Herald’s Patricia Mazzei, with her head in her hands.
Rivera listened quietly to the verdict. At issue in the trial was the matter of a taped confession Rivera had made. He contended that he was coerced and said he never entered the house. Prosecutors argued that he and the others had driven from Fort Myers in order to take money they believed Taylor kept in the house. Prosecutors also pointed out that Rivera had confessed two years ago while under oath in a court hearing.
Prosecutors, Taylor’s family and Haley had no comment after the verdict.