If there’s anything the defense lawyers of Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua agree on, it’s that state star witness Luis Rivera threw their clients under the bus. He implicated the co-defendants in the 2014 shooting death of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel in order to dodge a possible death sentence, and get just another seven years on top of his current racketeering sentence, lawyers argued in opening statements on Thursday.
#MarkelMurder – JURY HAS BEEN SEATED. Opening statements tomorrow morning in the murder trial of FSU law professor, Dan Markel. Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua face 1st-degree murder charges. pic.twitter.com/MyPxAAqY4w
— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) September 25, 2019
Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman told jurors that Rivera will testify that Garcia hired him to help kill Markel. Garcia, in turn, had been hired by Magbanua, the mother of his children. Rivera claimed that the murder happened so that Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson would get her and the victims’ two sons. Markel was murdered after his ugly separation with his wife Wendi. The ex-wife’s family wanted not just her, but her children to join them in south Florida, said the prosecution. The Adelsons went at great lengths to leverage the victim into giving up his sons. This included allegedly threatening to convert the sons to Catholicism even though the family was Jewish. Basically, the theory is that Wendi’s brother Charlie Adelson hired Magbanua, who hired Garcia, who hired Rivera for backup. Garcia and Rivera directly participated in the murder, while Magbanua was the link between the actual killers and the reason behind it, according to the prosecution’s story. (The Adelsons have not been charged, and they have denied wrongdoing.)
Garcia lawyer Saam Zangeneh told jurors that yes, his client was in Tallahassee with Rivera, but only for one of the many drug deals they were involved in, not murder. The defendant had children with Magbanua, and loved his “wifey,” so it made no sense that he would help her new boyfriend Adelson commit murder, said the defense.
Magbanua attorney Taga Namat Kawass told jurors that her client was guilty of one thing: having “horrible taste in men.” Garcia and Charlie Adelson were those guys. She said that her client finally ended the relationship with Garcia in 2013, kicking him out of the apartment because of his drinking, relations with other woman, and involvement in cocaine. The defendant moved on to a casual, fun relationship with her boss Adelson, but she had no knowledge or role in the Markel murder, according to this story.
Magbanua remained in contact with Garcia because he was the father of her children. She did not cut him out of her kids’ life, said Kawass. Garcia, however, still wanted more. He stalked his ex and Adelson, and threatened to run them over with a truck, said Kawass.
The long and short of it is this: the defense is suggesting that Garcia hated Charlie Adelson too much to ever help him kill Markel. Both lawyers said that Rivera took this plea to save himself, and that his story didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Kawass said that the star witness’ story changed multiple times, and that her client was charged by a desperate prosecution.
Zangeneh told jurors that only Rivera, Adelon’s drug supplier, killed Markel as part of the Adelson murder plot.
[Mugshot via Broward County Sheriff’s Office]