Trial date set for suspect in Markel murder case

Published: Oct. 17, 2016 at 11:48 AM EDT
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service

June 20, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Nearly three years after a Florida State law professor was killed in an alleged murder for hire plot, a trial date has been set for the accused triggerman.

Sigfredo Garcia's court date hast been set to January 22, three and a half years after he’s accused of shooting FSU law professor Dan Markel point blank in a $100,000 murder for hire plot.

Co-defendant Katherine Magbanua, the mother of Garcia's children, is accused of arranging the murder with the law professor's ex-wife's brother and mother.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said after the trial date was set that she doesn't "have any plan to make any additional arrests at this time."

Two cell mates of Garcia have told investigators that Garcia confessed to them.

Jason McNair, a cellmate of Garcia's, said Garcia told him the ex-wife's family paid for the hit.

Garcia's attorney, Mutaqee Akbar, says the testimony is worthless.

"Jailhouse snitches are not reliable," Akbar said. "Anybody can tell you that."

The January 2018 trial date is not set in stone. The defense says its likely going to need more time.

Prosecutors have also released several hours of undercover video, showing the ex-brother-in-law meeting with Magbanua, then his father and mother.

The video adds no conclusive evidence, but it does show the efforts law enforcement is making to close the case.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News

June 20, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The accused trigger man in a Florida State University professor's murder is now set to stand trial.

Sigfredo Garcia is one of three people accused of killing law professor Dan Markel.

We were in court Tuesday when Garcia faced the judge.

Sigfredo Garcia is now slated to stand trial in January 2018.

Prosecutors had hoped to try the murder-for-hire case this year and asked the judge for a November trial date. However, defense attorneys told the judge they needed more time to investigate and depose witnesses, so the judge set a trial date of January 22, 2018.

It's a death penalty case and the trial is likely to last three weeks.

Garcia is accused of ambushing Markel in the garage of his Betton Hills home in 2014 as part of a murder-for-hire scheme.

Co-defendant Katherine Magbanua is still in jail awaiting trial. Prosecutors say right now there are no plans to try them together.

The third person accused in Markel's murder, Luis Rivera, took a plea and is expected to testify against both of them.

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News

June 5, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- One of three people accused in the murder of an FSU law professor could soon be headed for trial. Sigfredo Garcia is accused of shooting and killing Dan Markel in 2014.

The prosecution says the state is ready to go to trial. During a status hearing Monday morning, the defense asked for more time.

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman said she prefers to set a trial date for the end of July, but, says November might be a more realistic date.

"Just having spoken to opposing counsel, he seems to think that his co-counsel will think that the November date will work. But, not so much in July. So, I'll be happy if I get it tried this year." Cappleman said.

Garcia's girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, is also a suspect in the case.

Another suspect, Luis Rivera, took a plea deal and is serving a 19-years prison sentence.

Garcia is accused of pulling the trigger, and faces the death penalty.

Cappleman says she does think it's likely for Garcia's case to go into next year if she doesn't start requesting a trial date now.

Judge James Hankinson set another status hearing for June 20th. He said he hopes both sides will be able to come up with a trial date by then.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

June 5, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The accused triggerman in the murder case of Florida State law professor Dan Markel was in court on Monday.

Sigfredo Garcia appeared before a judge for a case management hearing just after 11:15 a.m.

Another status hearing in the case has been scheduled for June 20th.

The judge said he hopes both sides will have discussed trial dates by the next status hearing in 2 weeks.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

April 3, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Sigfredo Garcia, the accused triggerman in the murder of Florida State University professor Dan Markel, was in court on Monday morning for a status hearing.

The judge immediately rescheduled the hearing for later this month, saying he needs more time to consider evidence.

Garcia is one of three people accused in the murder-for-hire killing back in 2014.

Garcia's girlfriend, Katherine Magbanua, is also named as a suspect.

Luis Rivera, another suspect in the case, accepted a plea deal and is serving 19 years in prison.

Garcia is facing the death penalty.

By: Julie Montanaro

February 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The accused triggerman in the murder of Florida State University professor Dan Markel faced a judge Tuesday.

Sigfredo Garcia was in court for two minutes or less.

Garcia is accused of shooting Markel in the head in a murder-for-hire plot. He's facing the death penalty for it-- though that law is still up in the air in the legislature.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman says, "I am hoping that the death penalty issues will be resolved very shortly, and yes it does affect how we proceed in the case. I don't know how we'll proceed with Mr. Garcia unless the issues are resolved.

Garcia's appearance comes just one day after his girlfriend-- and co-defendant in the murder-- Katherine Magbanua, was in the same courtroom. Her upcoming trial was delayed.

Garcia will be back in court on April 3rd.

By: Julie Montanaro

October 17, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Sigfredo Garcia - one of three people now charged in the murder of FSU professor Dan Markel - appeared in court Monday morning.

It's Garcia's first court appearance since co-defendant Luis Rivera entered a plea and labelled Garcia the trigger man in the professor's murder.

Garcia's lawyers Sa'am Zangeneh and Mauricio Padilla asked for a delay in the trial and the judge granted one.

The judge did not set a new trial date.

Garcia's next court appearance will be December 6th.

Garcia's attorney said afterward that the state's case now relies heavily on the testimony of co-defendant turned state witness Luis Rivera.

"Previously the prosecution had a circumstantial case which was really sexy with all this physical evidence and cell phone records and cell tower pinging and now they have and now their case is going to hinge on Luis Rivera's credibility," defense attorney Saam Zangeneh said. "I'm not going to comment on exactly what our defense position is going to be, but take Mr. Rivera for his word, I guess, based on who he is."

Zangeneh would not comment on how Rivera's plea could impact Garcia's case or whether Garcia would become a cooperating witness.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman fought against a delay in the trial, but was not surprised by the defense request or the judge's decision to grant it.

"I think Mr. Rivera's plea and cooperation was the probably the basis for the defense seeking the continuance which I expected," prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said.

The judge could set a trial date at the December 6 court hearing, Cappleman said.