The trial of the “Facebook killer” in Miami, Florida has turned to expert witnesses on both sides who will argue over questions about forensic evidence and the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime. The case, which gained national attention due to a graphic Facebook image posted by the killer, will likely turn on the ability of attorneys on both sides to use expert testimony effectively during the trial.
Facebook Murder Trial Underway in Miami
In 2013 Derek Medina was arrested for fatally shooting his wife after he posted a graphic photo of her dead body on his Facebook webpage. Prosecutors allege Medina murdered 27-year-old Jennifer Alfonso by shooting her eight times during an argument between the couple before he uploaded the picture onto Facebook. According to witnesses who knew the couple, Medina and Alfonso had a contentious on-again-off-again relationship which featured a marriage, a divorce, and a re-marriage before the fatal argument took place two years ago.
Medina has not denied killing his wife, but responded to the allegations by claiming he acted in self-defense on the night of the murder. Attorneys for Medina told jurors during opening arguments Alfonso abused drugs, battered her husband, and engaged in Satan worship which caused the defendant to fear for his life. According to Medina, who was an undefeated 200-pound amateur boxer, his wife had been attacking him at the time of the shooting which caused him to react aggressively in fear for his life.
Both sides have submitted expert witness testimony to present during the course of Medina’s trial which will analyze forensic evidence at the crime scene and Medina’s state of mind in order to present jurors with a complete analysis of the facts surrounding Jennifer Alfonso’s death.
Forensic Expert Witnesses Take Stand in Facebook Killer Trial
After showing jurors graphic photos to introduce them to the scene inside the home Medina and Alfonso shared, prosecutors told jurors the victim never attacked the defendant and was not killed justifiably in self-defense. To bolster their argument, the prosecution called a crime scene investigator expert witness who was first to respond to the scene of the crime and gather evidence of the murder. The forensic expert told the court that evidence from the crime scene was consistent with the prosecution’s theory Jennifer Alfonso was attempting to cower away from Medina at the time she was killed and not attacking him as the defendant claimed.
To reinforce the argument, prosecutors called Miami-Dade Crime Scene Detective Anabella Pasqua as a crime scene expert witness. On the stand, Det. Pasqua told the court, “My conclusion was that the source of the bloodshed was stationary and the source of the bloodshed was also lower than the area where the blood spatter was located.” Detective Pasqua’s conclusions are also consistent with the prosecution’s theory that the victim was cowering down in a corner of the kitchen in a stationary position while the defendant shot her eight times.
Defense attorney Saam Zangeneh vigorously questioned both of the prosecution’s expert witnesses on crime scene analysis by pointing out flaws in their investigation techniques, including the failure to analyze blood splatter on a kitchen rug which could support the defendant’s claim that the victim had been the initial aggressor. With the prosecution wrapping up its case early this week, defense attorneys for Medina will open their case with an expert witness in battered spouse syndrome.
Battered Spouse Syndrome Expert Witness to Testify in Facebook Murder Case
Before the second day of Derek Medina’s murder trial Judge Yvonne Colodny announced she would reverse an earlier decision and grant the defense’s request for an expert witness on battered spouse syndrome to testify. Judge Colodny had initially denied the request for a battered spouse expert witness because she was concerned the expert would make conclusions about the facts of the case, but after reconsidering the motion she told defense attorneys they will be permitted to call their expert under strict conditions.
According to Judge Colodny the defense expert will be permitted to explain to jurors the nature of battered spouse syndrome, but will not be allowed to discuss the facts of Medina’s crime. The battered spouse expert witness will only be able to testify in hypothetical terms which will allow jurors to better understand the conditions which allegedly satisfy battered spouse syndrome without having their opinion swayed by an expert’s conclusion about whether or not Medina legally acted in self-defense when he shot his wife.
The defense will present its case later this week when the prosecution has rested. Prosecutors spent several days presenting testimony from police investigators who visited the scene and spoke with Medina after the crime before showing jurors surveillance footage which suggested Alfonso was not aggressive at the time of the shooting. Defense attorneys have not announced if Medina will testify, but will use experts in an effort to show jurors the victim was not stationary during the argument and the defendant’s state of mind was impacted by years of abuse to make him believe he was defending himself.