MIAMI -- The trial of the man accused of shooting Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor more than four years ago was postponed indefinitely Thursday morning when Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Murphy scheduled another hearing for July 12.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday. Thursday’s decision was the sixth postponement of the trial.
The attorney for Eric Rivera, 22, who police say pulled the trigger in a botched November, 2007 burglary that left Taylor with a mortal wound in his leg, asked for additional time to prepare because he has been on the case only a month.
The attorney, Judd Aronowitz, requested a trial date in October or November, but prosecutor Reid Rubin said he wouldn’t be able to commit to a specific date until mid-summer because of an unsettled schedule.
“My schedule might be a little clearer by July or August,” Rubin told Murphy.
A new date will be discussed at the July hearing, Murphy said.
Rivera and three other men from Fort Myers, Fla., face felony murder and armed burglary charges in connection with Taylor’s death a day after he confronted them in his South Miami home in the wee hours of the morning. All face life in prison. Rivera will be tried first. Three of the defendants, Rivera; Jason Scott Mitchell, 24; and Timmy Lee Brown, 22, were present in court.
A fifth defendant, Venjah Hunte, 24, pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against the others. All five of the men remain incarcerated.
A gag order in the case prevents the attorneys involved from commenting.
The trial has been repeatedly postponed since the first date was set for April, 2008. Rivera fired his previous attorney, Clinton Pitts of Miami, just a month ago despite a warning from Murphy that the trial date would not be moved again.
Richard Sharpstein, a Miami attorney and family friend, said a typical murder case in Miami-Dade County might take one to three years to get to trial, but rarely more.
“This has been an excruciating ordeal for the family,” Sharpstein said during a recent interview. “This case has taken far more time than it should have to be prosecuted. I certainly don’t think the prosecutors have been dragging their feet, but a ridiculous merry-go-round of lawyers and a multitude of [questionable] decisions by the defendants have made it ridiculous and absurd.”
Each trial could last three weeks, especially if jury selection proves challenging, according to local attorneys who declined to be named because of the gag order.
Murphy decided early on that he would not have the case moved to another locale.
The Pro Bowl safety, who grew up in Miami and attended the University of Miami, had been rehabilitating from a knee injury when he visited his Miami home over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2007. Police say the defendants expected the house to be unoccupied when they broke in after 1 a.m. on November 26.
Mitchell had spent four days at the house about two months before the alleged break-in, helping prepare for the 21st birthday party of Taylor’s half-sister, Sasha Johnson. Taylor paid him $300 for mowing his lawn and other services, according to interviews.
Taylor “was literally revered in the community,” Sharpstein said. “He was a local young man who made good.”
Taylor’s girlfriend, high school sweetheart Jackie Garcia, was in the couple’s bedroom with their baby daughter, Jackie, then 18 months, when Taylor grabbed a machete and went to investigate loud noises in the house, she told police. He died a day after sustaining a gunshot wound to his femoral artery.
Jackie Garcia is a niece of actor Andy Garcia.
“Of course they want to see justice for their deceased,” Sharpstein said. “Victims of violent crime are indelibly tattooed for the rest of their life. Nothing can salve their pain.”
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