New trial in SoBe rape, murder case
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Jurors had a chance to see the alleged murder weapon that killed a teen after a group of men brutally attacked her.
Opening statements in the case of a man charged in the brutal gang rape and murder of 18-year-old Ana Maria Angel began Monday.
Joel Lebron headed back to court after his first trial, earlier this month, ended in a mistrial when a detective mentioned the previous convictions of Lebron's co-defendants.
Prosecutors said Lebron and four other men raped Angel, before Lebron shot her in the head back in April of 2002.
The Miami-Dade Police detective whose testimony in the last trial forced the judge to call for a mistrial was once again back on the stand, Monday. "Did he tell you why he killed Ana Maria Angel?" a lawyer asked him.
"Yes, he told me, 'I don't know. Maybe she could identify me.'"
Three other men have already been convicted in this case. According to prosecutors, Angel 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 after he was stabbed several times and thrown out the vehicle.
During the prosecution's interview with the lead detective in the last trial, the detective mentioned the previous convictions of three of Lebron's co-defendants. A fifth has yet to go to trial.
So as not to bias a jury, Judge William Thomas decided to declare a mistrial. "Mr. Lebron is entitled to a fair trial," the judge said, "and a jury being told that another co-defendant who already went to trial is convicted, that concerns this court."
During Lebron's new trial, his defense attorney tried to show how this detective cannot be trusted. "So when you told the jury that Mr. Lebron said that he was in the sea grapes, what you were doing was you were telling them that you knew he was in the sea grapes, because he didn't tell you that they were in the sea grapes."
"He said he was hiding in the bushes. There was no other bushes there," countered the detective.
Lebron faces charges of first degree murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and rape in this case. If convicted, he could face life in prison or even the death penalty. Three men already convicted for their roles in the crime are serving life sentences.
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