There’s no question that Exzavier Robinson and Keenya Young drove to the Aventura Mall, stole Michael Kors and Juicy Couture purses from Macy’s and led police on a dramatic chase that ended with a motorist dead from a high-speed collision.
It’s up to jurors to sift through the details and decide who is really to blame.
Heard from Robinson’s defense on Thursday: He was a simple shoplifter acting on his own, and it was Young who took the wheel of his borrowed Chrysler 300, driving like a mad woman before plowing into a car driving through a North Miami Beach intersection.
Killed was 40-year-old security guard Emily Anderson, who was driving home from another exhausting shift to support her two grandchildren.
“The way Keenya drove was reckless,” Assistant Public Defender Lauren Dawson told jurors during opening statements of Robinson’s trial for murder. “The way Keenya drove was dangerous.”
Prosecutors, however, say Robinson masterminded the robbery, wielded his car like a weapon — nearly running over a Macy’s security officer — before driving off. At the intersection of Northeast 179th Street and 15th Avenue, he sped through at 66 mph, more than double the legal limit.
“Not breaking at a stop sign, T-boning the car driven by Emily Anderson,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Justin Funck told the jury.
Robinson, 36, is charged with first-degree felony murder, armed robbery, vehicular homicide and reckless driving resulting in serious bodily injury. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
The tragedy happened on Aug. 3, 2009. Prosecutors said Robinson and Young were in on the robbery together, parking their car in a fire lane for a quick getaway from Macy’s. He stole a Michael Kors bag, while Young took two Juicy Couture purses. As they ran off, a security officer tussled with Young as Robinson hopped in the driver’s seat and gunned it toward the two.
“Ms. Young was thrown on the hood of the car ... Mr. Robinson drove off while Ms. Young was still on the hood of the car,” Funck said.
Young managed to get back into the car, and the two sped off, going the wrong way down a one-way street and hitting speeds upward of 90 mph as Aventura police gave chase, he said. The Chrysler soon collided with Anderson’s vehicle. She worked with Bryan Security and had a second job supervising the front desk at the Nordica Condominium in Miami’s Roads section.
Before she was killed, Anderson had already suffered a violent tragedy — her 19-year-old son, Michael Johnson, was shot and killed in what investigators believed was a case of mistaken identity. His killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The day of her death, Anderson was driving home along with her co-worker and cousin, Charles Edward Hall, of North Miami. He survived but remained in a coma for months.
In the moments after the crash, Young emerged from the car and promptly vanished. She was arrested days later.
Robinson was found behind the wheel of the Chrysler, his right leg broken. Prosecutors say he drove — but his defense lawyers swear he was the passenger, and had just been trying to get out of the damaged Chrysler through the driver’s side.
He and Young were charged with first-degree murder in Anderson’s death. They were also charged with armed robbery for the mall ripoff based on classifying the car driven toward the Macy’s worker as a weapon. In Florida, anyone who commits certain violent crimes, including armed robbery, in which someone dies can be held responsible for murder.
Young, 39, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison plus 10 years of probation. She will serve as the star witness against Robinson.
His defense attorney, Dawson, called Young a liar who got a “sweetheart deal.”
“As a result of Keenya Young’s lies, this entire criminal justice system has been cheated,” Dawson said. “Mr. Robinson has been cheated.”
The trial continues Friday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Charles Johnson.