Mistrial declared in rape, murder case
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A judge has declared a mistrial in one of the most high-profile murder cases ever heard in a South Florida courtroom.
Joel Lebron, 33, is one of the co-defendants in another trial regarding the gang rape and murder of a teenage girl. He is the fourth person to go on trial for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Ana Maria Angel back in April of 2002.
During the prosecution's interview with the lead detective on the case, Thursday afternoon, the detective mentioned the previous convictions of Lebron's co-defendants. So as not to bias a jury, Judge William Thomas halted testimony and ordered a break. An hour later he decided to declare a mistrial, and he was not happy about it. "This court is forced, forced to grant the motion for mistrial," he said.
The trial will start again from scratch next week after a new jury is selected. Michelle Perez, one of the jurors dismissed following the mistrial said she believes that Lebron was on his way to being convicted no matter his prior history with the law. "Based on the information that we had up to this point, I can't see how he would walk out of here an innocent man," she said, "no matter what jury tries him. There was no way."
Three other men have already been convicted in this case. According to prosecutors, Ana Maria and her boyfriend, Nelson Portobanco, were on a date, strolling the beach after dinner, when they were kidnapped and robbed by Lebron and four other men.
Portobanco was stabbed and left for dead while Ana Maria was raped by all five men, prosecutors said, then she was shot in the back of the head. Portobanco survived the attack.
A fifth man's trial remains pending.
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