Crime

Miami jury adjourns for the night in trial of accused ‘Facebook’ killer

Saam Zangeneh, defense attorney for Derek Medina, holds a knife that was allegedly held by Jennifer Alfonso against Medina during an argument in which Derek Medina shot her to death, during closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015
Saam Zangeneh, defense attorney for Derek Medina, holds a knife that was allegedly held by Jennifer Alfonso against Medina during an argument in which Derek Medina shot her to death, during closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015 CMGuerrero@elNuevoHerald.com

During a raging marital argument in their South Miami townhouse, Derek Medina emptied all eight bullets from his .380 caliber pistol into his wife Jennifer Alfonso because “he wanted her dead,” a state prosecutor argued on Tuesday at the trial of the so-called Facebook killer.

Afterward, “he is calmly gathering his sweatshirt and stopping to take pictures” of her dead body to post on social media on an August morning in 2013, prosecutor Leah Klein told a dozen Miami-Dade Circuit Court jurors during closing arguments.

But Medina's attorney described a different scene altogether: Alfonso lunging at Medina with a kitchen knife seconds before he fatally shot his wife in self-defense, meeting force with justifiable force.

“Once you realize this knife was in her hand, that's a game changer,” Saam Zangeneh told jurors, as he held up a large knife that was found in the couple's kitchen, the scene of the crime. “A young lady lost her life, but her actions caused it to happen.”

After two and a half hours of deliberations Tuesday night, jurors had not decided on which version of the deadly encounter they believed. They will return Wednesday morning to decide the fate of a husband who admitted killing his wife and posting a photo of her dead body on Facebook.

Medina, 33, a condo-security supervisor, faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Jurors also have the option of convicting him of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or acquitting him altogether.

At trial, Medina’s team of lawyers tried to portray him as a “psychologically and emotionally abused” husband whose wife ultimately attacked him with a knife before he fatally shot her. The defense claimed that an internal surveillance video, which did not capture the shooting itself but depicts snippets of the altercation, shows “the butt of a knife.”

“That means that 1.6 seconds before he started shooting, she had a knife in her hand,” Zangeneh told jurors.

But state prosecutor J. Scott Dunn said Alfonso was not armed with a knife and that Medina's defense team “flipped” the story around during closing arguments to confuse jurors and raise reasonable doubt about his intent to kill her. “Jennifer was not attacking her husband; she was not beating him," Dunn said. “What they were doing in that kitchen was having an argument. ... She was not armed when he killed her.”

Klein, the prosecutor, argued that Medina, angry with Alfonso after she threatened to leave him, killed his 26-year-old wife execution-style. She said that because he went upstairs to retrieve his pistol during their argument and then came back downstairs with the weapon, Medina “had more than enough time for reflection” before killing his wife. That finding would be necessary for the jury to find him guilty of premeditated first-degree murder.

Medina had admitted to police that he was arguing with his wife in the kitchen before going upstairs to fetch his pistol and returning to confront her again. He also said that she had grabbed a kitchen knife, which he had taken away from her before firing “because she was punching like crazy.”

The defense rested on Tuesday, after Circuit Judge Yvonne Colodny disallowed its claims that Alfonso was high on rage-inducing “bath salts,” or alpha-PVP, during the spat with her husband. The judge also did not allow the team to put on a pair of experts to back two defense theories: that Medina was a battered spouse and acted in self-defense, and that light and shadows in the couple's kitchen showed the wife was holding a knife seconds before he fatally shot her.

The state rested its case last Wednesday after an associate medical examiner testified that bullet trajectories and wounds to the neck and upper chest show Alfonso was kneeling in a cowering position when she was killed by a flurry of bullets.

After she was killed in August 2013, Medina uploaded a photo of the wife’s body on his public Facebook page. He also admitted to killing her.

“I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife,” Medina posted. “Love you guys. Miss you guys. Take care. Facebook people you’ll see my in the news.”

Dunn told jurors that his social media posting crushes his self-defense theory: “It's hard to tell the entire world you're going to prison and walk that back.”

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