Juror in newlywed murder trial replaced after lying - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Juror in newlywed murder trial replaced after lying

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Michele Escoto and Wendy Trapaga Michele Escoto and Wendy Trapaga
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A juror's failure to disclose personal details has put testimony on hold in the trial of a man accused of murdering his newlywed bride for a $1 million life insurance policy.

Michele Escoto, who is representing himself, stands accused of drugging, strangling and beating his wife of just four days with a tire iron, before killing her in 2002. Prosecutors say the motive was an attempt for him to collect Wendy Trapaga's $1 million life insurance policy.

Escoto has tried to mitigate his own involvement in the murder by saying his ex-girlfriend, who got immunity in exchange for her testimony, was an accomplice.

On Tuesday, a juror was replaced by an alternate after the state claimed the juror failed to disclose her own daughter is the alleged victim in a separate pending sexual abuse case. The juror's current situation could make her partial to the prosecution which would then be possible grounds for appeals.

However, the defendant did not have an issue with keeping the juror saying she could still be objective in her decision-making process, but the judge did not agree.

"I have concerns that she is going to taint the rest of the panel," said Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez in court Tuesday morning. "She lied to court, she was disingenuous. We asked these questions, we gave everyone the opportunity to disclose and discuss, we had days of jury selection, and I understand this appeals the defense's objection, but I am going to cite her."

It has now been almost three weeks since opening statements in the case, and the defense is finally receiving the case.

Testimony is now underway.
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