Eric Rivera confessed on video to killing Sean Taylor. But even that may not be enough to get Rivera convicted.
Juror deliberated the 23-year-old’s fate for three days, nearly six years after someone broke into Taylor’s home and fatally shot him in the leg. Via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald, the jurors will return on Monday.
The deliberations have been nearly as eventful as the trial. According to Curt Anderson of the Associated Press, a law book was found on Thursday in the jury room. Specifically, the 2010 edition of state criminal law and rules was discovered in the jury room, even though the judge had told jurors they must rely only on the 33-page collection of jury instructions.
Rivera’s lawyers opted not to request a mistrial, presumably because Rivera’s lawyers sense that the protracted discussions could result in a favorable verdict. Per Anderson, the issue is something that could be pursued on appeal. (I haven’t researched Florida law on this point, but the system generally frowns on the “cake and eat it” approach of ignoring potential juror misconduct when hoping for a win and then complaining about it after the eventual loss.)
Despite confessing in the days after the murder that Rivera shot Taylor, Rivera testified that he never entered the house, and that another member of the group that intended to burglarize the home fired the weapon. Rivera claims he was coerced into confessing. (Or maybe he thought they were talking about shoplifting a can of tuna fish.)
Jurors can convict Rivera or first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter. Or they can find that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rivera was even in the house, allowing yet another potentially factually guilty person walk out of the courthouse a free man.
Which is still better than having a factually innocent person jailed for life.