Anthony Carlo's Notes for Trial Day 11
JUNIOR TRIAL DAY 11: BLOODY CLOTHES ARE REVEALED/MICHAEL “SOSA” REYES WILL TESTIFY
As week 4 of the ‘Junior’ Trial nears its end, the prosecution starts to cement their case. Thursday began with complaints from the defense lawyers for Jonaiki Martinez-Estrella and Jose Muniz, two of the five men charged with first-degree murder in the death of the Belmont teen.
Both lawyers complaining that their clients have limited access to the Bronx District Attorney’s Discovery items. Kyle Watters, who represents Martinez-Estrella, says his client is only allowed to view digital discovery material while he is present at Brooklyn House.
Amy Attias, who represents Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, steps in to tell Judge Robert Neary that the defendants should have hard copies of translations of what cooperating witnesses are testifying.
ADA Morgan Dolan responds for the prosecution, telling the judge she does not object to providing the defendants with hard copies of discovery items, but asks for the court to redact witnesses’ pedigree information like addresses and dates of birth. The judge rules in her favor.
Prosecutor Dolan discussed audio tapes the DA is in possession of that they want to play as evidence during this trial. She tells the judge she’s handed over transcripts to the defense. Dolan says the DA is in possession of transcripts for ten to fifteen phone calls between the defendants, aside from Elvin Garcia, and co-conspirator Danel Fernandez who was charged with second-degree murder in this crime.
Dolan tells the judge she not only wants to use the calls as evidence of conspiracy, but also because she says the defendants admit guilt during the calls and disclose the locations they dropped the weapons they used to kill Junior with.
The jury is called in after the pre-trial day conference, and the prosecution calls the Connecticut State Police to the stand. Edmond Vayan, a detective with the Western District’s Major Crime Squad, testifies on the arrest of Luis A. Cabrera-Santos who was picked up in Southbury using a license plate reader that flagged his car for being wanted in New York homicide, last July.
Vayan reviews photos on the stand of the gray Honda prosecutors say Cabrera-Santos was operating. Detective Frank Mugavin of the Connecticut State Police comes on next, testifying that stains on the left back seat of the car tested positive for blood.
The DA shows the jury a photo taken from the scene of Junior’s stabbing – showing what appeared to be Elvin Garcia, who was allegedly bleeding after being stabbed in his hand by another gang member during the attack, entering the left back door of what prosecutors believe is Cabrera-Santos’ car leaving the scene.
Detective Mugavin testifies that the photo is consistent with where the bloodstains were found in Cabrera-Santos’ car.
ADA Dolan approaches Junior’s father, Lisandro Guzman, who is sitting in the audience, to warn him about the disturbing evidence that will be presented in court next. Police officer Kai Oikawa from the 48th Precinct steps to the stand testifying that he responded to a knife assault on June 20th, 2018 at 11:45 pm.
Oikawa responded to St. Barnabas hospital first, he testified, saying he, “noticed a lot of blood and people frantically screaming.” Oikawa did not see Junior at the entrance to the hospital, so he was sent to East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue to speak with the owner of the bodega that Junior was dragged from. Oikawa also reviewed the surveillance video, before getting called back to the St. Barnabas ER.
“I observed the person on the stretcher and the clothes that were going to be vouchered,” Oikawa testified.
“The doctor gave the time of death…he was covered in a sheet up to his neck.” Junior’s clothes had to be cut out of the evidence bag they were originally sealed in, and re-vouchered and sealed in a heftier evidence bag because “the blood was soaking through…” the original bags, Oikawa testified.
The police officer pulled a bloodstained sweatshirt, tee shirt, shorts, boxers and one sock out of the evidence bag to show to the jury. One juror covered her mouth after seeing what was once a white tee shirt turned completely reddish brown.
NYPD Detective Sophia Henry from the Crime Scene Unit stepped up to the stand next. Henry photographed Junior at the morgue, testifying, “I observed that he had an open wound, I believe, on the right side of his neck.”
ADA Dolan described the wound as a “4-inch deep cut to the jugular” during her opening statements. Detective Henry was also sent to photograph the crime scene, which she says, produced no weapons for police to recover.
“Blood was on the floor…and there was also blood on the glass on the right side,” Henry testified referring to the blood on the deli countertop.
Henry processed a 2003 gray Acura that was in the custody of Kevin Alvarez. “I found a knife, a black handle knife in the pocket of the front passenger’s seat,” she testified. A photograph of what appeared to be a kitchen knife with a 5-inch blade was shown to the jury.
Sergeant Raphael Hernandez of the Paterson Police Department leads off witness testimony after lunch. He testified, on June 24th, the Paterson PD received an anonymous
tip that suspects wanted in the ‘Junior’ stabbing were hiding out at 260 E. 24th Street in Paterson, New Jersey.
Hernandez says several officers followed up on the tip, driving to the address. The police observed several people inside the first floor apartment. As Hernandez approached the front door he says he heard a yell, testifying, “someone jumped out the first floor window.”
The jumper was later identified as Jose Tavarez. “I could see the tattoo on his neck,” Hernandez testified. Tavarez, part of the second group of defendants who will go on trial, landed on the sidewalk in front of the house and ran to the back of the home where he took a staircase to a second floor apartment.
Police forced entry into the apartment arresting Manuel Rivera, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Jose Muniz, Danel Fernandez and Jose Tavarez who was arrested on the second floor while trying to change his clothes.
Paterson Police officer Selba Perez testifies that roughly seven cops accompanied three sergeants during the raid. “He was hidden shirtless behind the refrigerator,” Perez testified of Santiago.
“Patterson Police, everyone put your hands up, don’t move!” Perez says police were yelling as they entered the home to find Santiago in the kitchen partially obscured by the fridge.
Court is dismissed but there is unfinished business. Defense Watters raises a concern to the judge claiming none of the prosecutors’ witnesses, so far, have indicated there was conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, therefore asking for co-conspirator statements to be banned from evidence.
Watters brings up the Alvarez testimony as an example saying that Alvarez testified Frederick Then and Diego Suero, two of the gang’s leaders, had a conversation in front of Sueros’s home the night of Junior’s death, while other gang members were present, and the word to go out and hunt Sunset members spread around.
Watters says Alvarez testified there was no plan to kill and no directive to go out and even seriously hurt anyone, making the conspiracy charge mute.
Defense lawyer Toni Messina, who represents Manuel Rivera, says she anticipates Michael “Sosa” Reyes will be testifying Friday May 31st – saying the biggest issue will be his credibility as a witness.
Reyes’ face was one of the first captured on bodega surveillance video entering the store to track down Junior, but appeared to leave before the teen was dragged out and killed by other gang members. The defense hinted at what some of his testimony will reveal,
including that he fled to the Dominican Republic after that night. Prosecutors say Reyes was a member of the Bad Boys set of the Trinitarios.
Prosecutor Dolan says the Medical Examiner will testify on Junior’s autopsy report and photos on either next Tuesday or Thursday. Dolan hopes to rest her case by the end of next week.