MIAMI, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Evidence links Eric Rivera to the 2007 slaying of football star Sean Taylor, a prosecutor told jurors Monday as Rivera's trial began in Miami.
Rivera, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary in the killing of Taylor, a former University of Miami football star who went on to the NFL's Washington Redskins. Prosecutors said a group of five young men, including Rivera, intended to rob Taylor's Palmetto Bay, Fla., home, believing Taylor was not at home at the time.
The evidence includes cellphone and highway toll records, footprints of Rivera's sneakers in Taylor's home, and a witness who placed Rivera with four other burglars after Taylor's shooting, prosecutor Ray Araujo said in the trial's opening statements.
Araujo added the most damning evidence were Rivera's own words, a confession of the plan and the crime, as well as River's explanation of throwing the murder weapon into the Everglades.
Defense lawyer Janese Caruthers claimed detectives "ambushed" Rivera, who unwillingly tagged along on the burglary.
"They [detectives] were in such a rush and under such pressure to close the confession they forced my client [Rivera] to give a statement and they forced him to confess to a crime that he did not commit," Caruthers told jurors.
Awaiting future trials are the other defendants, Charles Wardlow, 24, Jason Scott Mitchell, 25, and Timothy Brown, 22. A fifth defendant, Venjah Haute, 25, has already pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Rivera, The Miami Herald reported.