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Jury now deliberating in Katherine Magbanua retrial

The jury in Katherine Magbanua’s retrial started deliberating just before one p.m. Friday.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 9:16 AM EDT|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The jury is back in courtroom 3G after asking to listen to the controversial Dolce Vita video again.

Jurors - as well as the state, defense and Katherine Magbanua herself - are all wearing headphones in hopes of hearing a conversation between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson more clearly.

This is the second question the jury has asked since it started deliberations. It previously asked for an inventory of exhibits so it could navigate all the phone calls discussed during the trial.

The jury has been deliberating since just before 1 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The jury is now deliberating in the retrial of Katherine Magbanua.

Jurors were sent into the jury room just before 1 o’clock Friday afternoon.

Their deliberations followed nearly four hours of closing arguments by the prosecution and defense.

The judge is allowing jurors to take their notes into the jury room with them, but not their cell phones.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - “This is the anatomy of a wrongful prosecution,” defense attorney Tara Kawass said of the murder and conspiracy charges against Katherine Magbanua.

“The easiest answer they could find - and they went with - is Katherine Magbanua,” Kawass said in her closing arguments to the jury. “They failed Katherine at every single stage of this proceeding.”

Kawass told the jury police and prosecutors “filter out all the facts that don’t fit their theory.”

“Why are you going to walk into a bank and deposit money from a homicide?” Kawass said about the cash deposits made in the weeks following Dan Markel’s murder.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist,” Kawass said. “She did not know.”

Kawass also urged the jury to listen to the Dolce Vita video for themselves, and not to rely on the prosecution’s interpretation of what is happening at that meeting.

“It’s not your job to make sense of the nonsense case that they’ve brought to you,” Kawass said. “The benefit of the doubt goes to Katherine.”

“This is not the conversation that would be had by two co-conspirators to a homicide,” Kawass said.

She pointed to a recorded call between Magbanua and Garcia as further proof Magbanua did not know about the murder for hire plot.

“The less you know the better,” Garcia said in one call highlighted by the defense. “Why would he be saying that to the mastermind ... of the conspiracy?” Kawass asked.

“400 calls and nothing” to directly tie Magbanua to the murder for hire plot, she said.

Kawass asked the jury why Donna Adelson and Wendi Adelson aren’t under arrest and on trial.

She also took aim at the state’s star witness, co-defendant Luis Rivera.

“I don’t even know where to begin with the inconsistencies,” Kawass said to the jury. “The Latin King gang member,” she said, “that’s who they want you to trust.”

“The only person who’s been consistent since day one ... is Katie,” Kawass said.

Kawass said if Magbanua was guilty, she would have made a deal to gain immunity on day one. She’s been in jail for six years and had COVID twice, Kawass said, and has chosen to testify at trial twice.

“She wanted you to hear it out of her mouth,” Kawass said. “I had nothing to do with the murder of Dan Markel.”

“We need objectivity,” Kawass told the jurors as she wrapped up her closing arguments. “She is innocent. Justice for Dan Markel is not convicting an innocent person.”

For previous coverage see below.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - “Dan Markel is the only victim in this case,” the lead prosecutor said as she began her closing arguments to the jury.

Georgia Cappleman flashed up photos of the FSU law professor on the big screen in court, both before - and after - his death from two bullets to the head.

Cappleman says the motive for Markel’s murder was clear, a “particularly nasty” divorce from his ex-wife Wendi Adelson and the battle over relocating the Markel’s two children to her home in Miami.

Cappleman argued that the Adelson family bullied Markel and discussed pooling their money for a “million-dollar bribe” to get him to agree to the move. “What a bargain” they ended up getting, Cappleman said, in paying $100,000 for his murder instead.

Cappleman said Magbanua and the others may have gotten away with it had it not been for Markel’s neighbor who spotted a Prius speeding away from the scene ... and investigators who were able to “pull a Prius out of a haystack of Priuses” and tie it to Luis Rivera and Sigfredo Garcia.

Cappleman refuted defense allegations that Luis Rivera was told what to say in order to get a deal.

“Nobody put a name in his mouth. Nobody told him what to say,” Cappleman said.

Cappleman argued it’s easy for Magbanua and her defense team to “point to an empty chair” and blame Garcia, Rivera, and Charlie Adelson for the murder for hire.

“We got it all right except for her,” Cappleman said of the claims.

“Everybody else is guilty ... guilty, guilty, guilty,” Cappleman said sarcastically. “I don’t know anything.”

Cappleman then pointed to phone records and flurries of calls before the murder, after the murder and the next day when Cappleman contends Magbanua met with Garcia and Rivera to pay them $100,000 for Markel’s murder.

Prosecutors shared a line graph showing a big spike in cash in Magbanua’s bank accounts in the weeks after the murder ... more than $13,000 ... with deposits in 2014 triple those of the year prior. Cappleman also highlighted more than $17,000 in paychecks from the Adelson Institute over the next year.

Cappleman then went through a series of secretly recorded phone calls that feature calls between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson as well as calls between Magbanua and Garcia.

“It’s getting too detailed. It’s somebody who knows for sure,” Magbanua tells Garcia on one of the calls highlighted by prosecutors.

“Dan Markel is dead. This is the work of this conspiracy,” Cappleman argued as she concluded her closing arguments. “She(Magbanua) was the glue in this conspiracy. It does not work without her. "

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Katherine Magbanua could have a verdict in her retrial by the end of the day.

Attorneys will be making their closing arguments to the jury Friday morning and jurors could begin deliberating by midday.

The judge started the day by reading instructions to the jury.

“You’ve now seen and heard all the evidence,” Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler told the jury and ordered them to base their verdict solely on “the evidence, the lack of evidence and the law.”

Jurors have listened to seven days of testimony, six days of state witnesses and one day of defense witnesses, including Katherine Magbanua who testified in her own defense for four and a half hours.

Magbanua is accused of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder in the 2014 murder for hire of FSU law professor Dan Markel. His family is in the courtroom and has been each day of the retrial.

Magbanua’s first trial in 2019 ended with a hung jury and mistrial. Her longtime boyfriend Sigfredo Garcia was found guilty that day and sentenced to life in prison. Co-defendant Luis Rivera entered a plea in exchange for his testimony against them and is serving a 19-year prison sentence. Markel’s ex-brother-in-law, Charlie Adelson, was arrested in connection with the murder for hire plot just last month.

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