Lawyers for accused Facebook killer Derek Medina want to know if hallucinogenic bath salts played a part in the murder of his wife, and are pushing prosecutors to turn over key evidence that they believe could link the synthetic drug to Jennifer Alfonso’s death.
At a brief hearing Wednesday, in which Medina appeared wearing red prison garb and with his ever-growing beard, defense attorney Saam Zangeneh told Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Yvonne Colodny that the defense could not move forward with discovery until prosecutors and police turn over the homicide report.
Attorney Rick Yabor said 10 white rectangular pills found in a green garlic bottle on the lower level of a cabinet in the couple’s kitchen were analyzed by the defense and were found to contain Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, also known as synthetic ecstasy, or bath salts.
Yabor also provided a photo taken from a video recorder in the couple’s South Miami townhouse that he says shows Alfonso opening the cabinet several hours before the murder. Now the defense is asking the court to turn over evidence that may include body tissue, hair, or any internal organ that could show if Alfonso ingested the substance.
“It’s so we can conduct our own individual testing on the remaining tissue,” said Yabor. “We don’t know what the significance of the substance is. We need to do due diligence.”
Medina, 31, is accused of the shooting death of his then-26-year-old wife in their South Miami home last August. The shooting wasn’t unusual by South Florida standards, but Medina’s actions following the killing was: He announced the killing on his Facebook page, then posted a picture of Alfonso’s twisted, bloodied body lying on the kitchen floor.
Medina’s trial is set for March 17, but that date is expected to be pushed back. The shooting made international headlines.
“I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife. Love you guys. Miss you guys. Take care. Facebook people you’ll see me in the news,” Medina posted.
Medina has pleaded not guilty to the first degree murder charge, which could carry a death sentence. He told police at the time of the murder that his wife was hitting him and that he shot her in self defense.
His attorneys argue Medina was a battered spouse defending himself against a woman who threatened to leave him, then hit him repeatedly the morning of the murder. Medina told detectives that he took a kitchen knife from his wife and returned it to the drawer before firing six to eight bullets at her.
Medina’s attorneys filed a nine-page amended motion in court earlier this week saying the county’s Medical Examiner’s Office reached conclusions without providing documentation or analysis that could help their case.
The motion goes on to say the medical examiner’s report doesn’t say whether Alfonso consumed illicit drugs, which could be “critical evidence in support of the defendant’s defense.”
Bath salts are a designer drug that has gained popularity the past decade. They come in several forms, but generally contain synthetic chemicals similar to amphetimines. The chemical is said to induce agitation, hallucinations, even paranoia. They were outlawed in 2012 through the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act.
The motion filed this week also states that a witness named Bruce Bates gave sworn testimony in the state’s investigation that Alfonso used synthetic ecstasy and other “illicit drugs.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Spokesman Ed Griffith would not say whether Alfonso was drug tested or whether the state had blood or hair samples from her.
“We don’t prosecute the victim,” he said.
Medina, the accused killer, was not drug tested, Griffith said.
Former state prosecutor Abe Laeser, a veteran of capital murder case trials, said it’s easier for the defense to infer certain situations if it can prove the victim had drugs in her system.
“Obviously, it’ easier to say to the jury, ‘crazy people do crazy things when they’re all loaded up,’” Laeser said. “Even if you don’t really see she’s reaching for a knife, it increases the possibility of making the argument to the jury. You only need a single juror.”
The county’s Medical Examiner’s autopsy concludes that Alfonso may have been on her knees trying to shield her face as she was shot repeatedly at point blank range. Several shots struck her left forearm, an indication she may been trying to protect herself from a volley of bullets fired at a downward angle.
South Miami, which does not have a homicide unit, turned the case over to Miami-Dade police. Homicide investigations typically take several months to finish. Griffith said the homicide report is “pending completion,” and should be done if a few weeks.