Gang-Related Capital Murder Trial Begins in Tampa

Opening statements were given earlier this week in the Tampa capital murder trial of 17-year-old Esteban Rivera. Back on November 30, 2007, Rivera, then 15 years old, was involved in a drive-by shooting in East Tampa.

Rivera has been charged with capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Andre Coachman, who died from a single gunshot to the head. He was shot as he walked down the street with two other men at about 8:30 that night.

Prosecutors intend to call witnesses to testify that Rivera took credit for participating in the shooting.

Prosecutors say that Rivera and a friend, LaBronx Bailey, both fired handguns from the bed of a pickup truck. Apparently, the victim and his companions were believed to be members of another gang which had assaulted Bailey’s cousin in prison. Bailey has also been charged with murder and is awaiting trial.

A third man, Tra Evan Lineberger, fired a shotgun from inside the truck. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a 28-year sentence. He is expected to testify against Rivera.

In their opening statements, prosecutors conceded that they can’t prove which handgun fired the fatal shot. Rivera allegedly fired a 9mm and Bailey allegedly fired at .357 Magnum. Forensic tests could not definitively determine which gun fired the bullet that killed Coachman.

The State intends to argue that Rivera and Bailey were equally responsible as principles or “partners in crime” – that they had a joint intent and acted in concert to commit the homicide.

The defense also gave its opening statement, zeroing in on the lack of physical evidence. They also contend that there was no intent to kill anyone that night – just an intent to scare. Rivera’s criminal defense attorney, however, directed blame at Rivera’s co-defendant, Bailey, suggesting that he was the only one with a motive.

The inability to conclusively match the bullet to Rivera’s gun may well cause serious problems for the prosecution’s case. In this era of CSI television shows, jurors are very often keyed in to physical evidence and forensic examination. Unfortunately for the defense, Rivera’s gang affiliation may negate any positive momentum that the forensic deficiencies create.

Rivera is also one of five juveniles charged last month in a foiled plan to escape the Orient Road jail by slashing a detention deputy’s throat. He is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and escape from confinement in that pending case. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Comments

  • austin says:

    Ok well tra evan lineberger is my big brother i am 11 and tra just preveousily turned 18 ok well i think that it is crap that tra got charged 28 years because i go and se tra every chance i get ok he admitits to shooting the shotgun but he did not get not one peace of a bullet into anyone so your going to charge him 28 years this system is messed up what if the judge was races because under his charge it only states that he shot a shotgun I THINK THE SYSTEM IS MESSED UP! AND THAT IF I WERE AT THE AGE WERE I COULD FIGHT THIS CASE U BET UR BUTTOX I WOULD I love tra and miss him more and more every day i lost my brother for the next 28 years because of THIS STUPID MESSED UP CASE AND A STUPID JUDGE and he is my own blood i would give him time and he is my own bro i would of gave him max 6 years for shooting a gun at someone but did not hit them at all i hope that cops realy read this and show the judge what his own blood thought it pains me to se my mom cry and know that when my bro comes out my mom could be dead or in her 50 or 60

  • jay muhammad says:

    damn da police messed uhp people make mistakes they shouldnt have gave that man that much time i feel wat his brother is talking about

  • Austin says:

    Aint that right like yeah my brother deserve some time and all but thats messed up he had no intention to shoot that kid because think if your shooting a shotgun and you wanna hit somebody please beleave youll hit someone ! but its the system for yah ! i miss my brother every damn day ! and get this they put him and labronx in the same cell and all thinking they were gonna go at it or sum and they came cool so they sepperated em again ! but real talk f the feds ! they racist and they crule ! Keep Yah Head Up Bro

  • kobe says:

    Tra is also my brother i miss him like crazy and hopefully he can get out soon because he doesn’t deserve this much time !

  • Austin says:

    Yeah this some bull shit kobe, they don’t know what they took from us. I can only pray and hope he gets an appeal if it’s an option. I wrote the other one when I was like 11, im 14 now. I think about this everyday.

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