Criminal courts

Mistrial declared in trial of man charged with killing Miami detective

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

A judge on Monday declared a mistrial in the case of a reputed gang member accused of killing Miami police Detective James Walker in January 2008.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez cited a “variety” of legal issues, chiefly that prosecutors had failed to give defense lawyers a transcript of earlier testimony from a key witness in the case.

The defense asked for a mistrial after a juror on Monday admitted she had failed to disclose that she was the victim in a domestic-violence case, then discussed it with another juror.

Testimony in the murder trial began June 24, and the trial was expected to wrap up this week. Andrew Rolle faced up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Rolle is accused of killing Walker in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.

According to prosecutors, Rolle had been looking to kill a rival who had stolen a pistol from him. That night, a gang associate driving a white Ford Taurus dropped Rolle off in an alley in North Miami Beach, and Rolle ran over and sprayed bullets in the block where he believed his target was.

Rolle returned to the alley and, spying a white Ford Taurus, tried to get into the car, according to the state.

But the car actually belonged to Walker, a soft-spoken domestic-crimes detective who was off duty and had just pulled in to park his car and visit his estranged wife.

Walker rolled down the window and pointed his service pistol at Rolle. The defendant later told a friend that he “intentionally opened fire” on Walker until “the magazine was empty.”

As he ran away, Rolle tossed his AK-47 assault rifle underneath a nearby car, according to the state.

Rolle was also charged in two separate robbery cases; he was convicted in one and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In the second robbery case, he was charged along with Darwin Bois, a gang associate who was also set to testify against Rolle. In the murder case, Bois was to explain to the jury how the beef over the stolen gun started.

But Monday, defense lawyers revealed that they had learned of a transcript of Bois’ testimony at his own robbery trial in 2009 in which he claimed police had coerced him into falsely testifying against Rolle.

“If this doesn't put the witness’ credibility in question, I don’t know what does,” defense lawyer David Peckins told the judge.

Bois' original statement to North Miami Beach police investigating the Walker murder was video-recorded, and had long ago been given to the defense.

Prosecutor Abbe Rifkin said the state never had a copy of the trial transcript — and pointed out that it was Rolle himself who had long ago received the document.

“He did not give it to his defense attorneys until this morning, and somehow this is our fault,” Rifkin told reporters Monday afternoon.

The judge agreed with the defense and said prosecutors should have turned over the information to the other side anyway.

Ultimately, prosecutors did not object to the mistrial. A new trial will begin within 60 days.

“It’s best for all the parties, including the defendant and the community to start all over again and do this once and do it right,” Rifkin said.

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