Miami man who won legal battle over ‘First 48’ footage pleads guilty to murder

Andrew Cummings
Andrew Cummings Miami-Dade Corrections

A Miami man who won his legal battle involving footage from the popular reality show The First 48 has decided to no longer fight his prosecution for murder.

Andrew Cummings, 37, on Thursday pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to spend 15 years in prison. With credit for time served in jail and on house arrest, he will serve about another four more years behind bars.

Prosecutors said Cummings fatally beat his lover, Arsenio Lopez, at a condo in Miami’s Palm Bay neighborhood in January 2006. The case was featured on A&E’s The First 48, which follows homicide detectives as they investigate real-life murders in cities across the United States.

Miami detectives were among the most popular featured on the show, which featured 113 homicide cases from the city over the years. The department in 2013 cut ties with the show because of concerns it glorified violence in Miami’s predominately black community.

Privately, prosecutors often grumbled that the show gave defense attorneys more ways to attack the strength of the cases. That’s what happened in the case of Cummings, who on the episode admitted to injuring Lopez with a towel rod only after being attacked.

But defense attorneys David Edelstein and Pat Dray said that Cummings — still discombobulated from a hospital stay after injuries suffered during the confrontation — had been “illegally detained” by police before waiving his right to remain silent.

The First 48 footage indeed showed him being escorted into the secure police station by a patrol officer holding handcuffs in one hand. In all, the show aired five minutes of more than two hours of interrogation. The rest of the footage was destroyed, a standard practice for the show.

Miami-Dade Judge Yvonne Colodny threw out his entire statement to police. She also expressed concern after one detective admitted that his “participation in the television show required him to ‘play act’ and create false scenes for the purpose of entertainment,” according to her ruling.

“The court has serious concerns about what is real versus the result of reality television,” she wrote.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office appealed the decision. But the Third District Court of Appeals in February upheld the judge’s decision.

The ruling certainly weakened the state’s case against Cummings. But he chose not to take the case to trial.

“He just wanted closure,” Edelstein said. “He just wanted to the case to be over.”