Court wraps up in 1st week of Katherine Magbanua retrial

Watch the Facebook videos at the top of this story to catch up on the proceedings.
Tallahassee Police Department Sgt. Chris Corbitt takes the stand in Katherine Magbanua's retrial.
Tallahassee Police Department Sgt. Chris Corbitt takes the stand in Katherine Magbanua's retrial.(WCTV)
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 10:02 AM EDT|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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FRIDAY A.M. PROCEEDINGS (Luis Rivera on stand until about 1 hour and 12 minutes in. TPD Sgt. Chris Corbitt takes stand 2 hours and 5 minutes in.)

FRIDAY P.M. PROCEEDINGS (TPD Sgt. Chris Corbitt on stand)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The jury has been dismissed for the weekend in the retrial of Katherine Magbanua after a week filled with memorable moments.

The third day of testimony saw the state continue to pin the blame on Magbanua as the middleman in the 2014 murder-for-hire plot of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel.

Court wrapped up around 3 p.m. Friday, but not before two very different, but very important, kinds of testimony.

“It’s the only girl [Sigfredo Garcia] speaks to is Katie. Whatever she says to do, he jumps and does it,” convicted hitman Luis Rivera said on the stand.

The defense continued its cross-examination of Friday, trying to smear his credibility and pointing out potential contradictions in his story.

“I mean we all make mistakes, it’s been eight years... who’s going to remember?” Rivera said.

“The only thing you’ve had to think of the last eight years is this testimony,” defense attorney Chris DeCoste replied.

“I don’t sit in my cell and think of this,” Rivera said.

But when the defense posed its main theory that Charlie Adelson went to Garcia, the hitman convicted in the case, without Magbanua’s knowledge, Rivera looked confused.

“And that confrontation turned into a negotiation, between him and Charles Adelson ... right?” Decoste asked.

“You think they spoke?” Rivera answered.

Tallahassee Police Department Sgt. Chris Corbitt, who supervises the department’s technical operations unit, also took the stand Friday.

He specifically works on communications analysis.

Cell phone records for nearly every player in the case were shown in court: the Adelsons, Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia, Luis Rivera and Markel.

Corbitt showed the courtroom a lengthy presentation to share a summary of the department’s analysis. He broke down Wendi Adelson’s route via pings on cell twoers on the day Markel died.

The presentation showed Wendi going to a liquor store before arriving for her lunch with friends. She did not need to go south, past the Markel house, to find a liquor store, the presentation showed.

Corbitt then went over where Markel went the morning he died, as well as the effort to find cell numbers that were used in all of those locations. The search for those numbers was unsuccessful, and other evidence shows both Rivera and Garcia turned off their phones before the murder.

Corbitt explained TPD created a “frequency report” for Garcia’s phone from May to July 2014, and his most frequent contact was Mgbanua.

Corbitt also testified that via the records and pings, Magbanua possibly helped Garcia pick up a rental car.

“What we did see is that Ms. Magbanua’s records had events and cell-site records consistent with traveling towards Comfort Rental Car in the evening of June 2, [2014],” Corbitt said on the stand.

Cell records also revealed who Garcia called first after the murder: Katherine Magbanua.

Monday morning, the defense will get their chance to cross-examine Corbitt. They will likely argue that cell phone pings provide context — a possibility — but not a smoking gun.

More court proceedings expected Monday include a financial analysis of Magbanua’s bank accounts and testimony from Rivera’s ex-girlfriend.

One surprise from the courtroom Friday was the state introducing brand-new discovery, what they say are jail calls. Some of those calls were recorded since the trial began, according to prosecutors.

The judge will decide if those calls are admissible on Monday.

Find previous updates on Friday’s court proceedings below.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The cross-examination of Luis Rivera continued on the third day of witness testimony in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial for the 2014 murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel.

Rivera is one of two men convicted for traveling to Tallahassee to kill Markel, and he’s a key witness for the state. He agreed to a plea deal in 2016, a few months after he was arrested. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Katherine Magbanua and accused triggerman Sigfredo Garcia.

As court proceedings kicked off Friday, the prosecution handed the defense new discovery of jail calls recorded in recent days, and some by Magbanua that may predate the beginning of her retrial. The judge will rule on the admissibility of that discovery Monday.

Defense attorney Chris DeCoste continued his cross-examination of Rivera by asking him how he got the gun.

“How many guns were brought for the second trip?” Decoste asked.

“I can’t remember,” Rivera replied.

Rivera said he couldn’t remember because it’s been eight years since the killing.

The defense argued Rivera did little to help law enforcement find the murder weapon.

DeCoste tried to dispute Rivera’s claim that he wasn’t the shooter, asking him how he knew Markel had his window up, was on the phone and put his hand up. Rivera said he was in the Prius and could see everything since he pulled up right behind him.

“I’m not wrong, not at all sir. Everything I said is nothing but the truth,” Rivera said on the stand.

Rivera denied several questions the defense asked about him and Garcia carrying out the murder behind Magbanua’s back.

During the redirect from prosecutors, Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman went directly after the defense’s theory.

“Did Garcia ever fight Charlie? Did he confront him?” she asked Rivera.

“No, ma’am,” Rivera replied.

The next witness on the stand after Rivera was Waldo Mesa Nunez, who worked at Comfort Rent-a-Car.

Assistant State Attorney Sarah Dugan went over how rental car agreements work with Nunez. He showed two different rental agreements, both from Sigfredo Garcia in June 2014.

Nunez now works for the Florida Highway Patrol. He explained how citations work as he looked at a speeding ticket issued to Rivera, which was previously admitted into court.


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