Court Observation


One of the assignments in this course every semester is for students to observe a portion of a criminal or civil trial in a local courthouse. Due to COVID that assignment has been changed to observing portions of a trial shown on YouTube. For this assignment you will observe potions of the Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua trial. Go to YouTube and enter the search term “Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua murder trial”.

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The trial took place over eleven days. The case begins with the opening statements of three attorneys: the prosecutor, Sigfredo Garcia’s attorney, and one of defendant Katherine Magbanua’s two attorneys. After that the prosecutor called her witnesses to testify. When the prosecutor finished calling her witnesses to the stand, the defendants’ attorneys called their witnesses. After that the attorneys presented their closing statements. Many witnesses were called to testify.
Background: Originally, three people were each charged with three counts in the killing of the victim. One of the three agreed to testify against the other two and in exchange for their testimony this individual received a reduced sentence. People that are referred to in the testimony include: Luis Rivera (Toto), Sigfredo Garcia (Tuto), Charlie Adelson, Harvey and Donna Adelson, Reggie Garcia (not related to Sigfredo Garcia), Dan Markel, Wendi Adelson (ex-wife of Dan Markel), Jessica- Rivera’s girlfriend, Katherine (Katy) Magbanua, Sedrick Nobles, and Special Agent Oscar Jimenez (FBI).

To answer the questions shown below, you will need to watch:
1. The opening statement of the prosecutor: watch about 15 minutes
2. Luis Rivera: FSU Law Professor Murder Trial – Day 3 Witness Luis Rivera – Parts 1 & 2 (watch both parts); also watch Day 4 Witness Luis Rivera – Part 4 (watch about 15 minutes)
3. Wendi Adelson: watch about 15 minutes – FSU Law Professor Murder trial – Day 2: Witness: Wendi Adelson
4. Katherine Magbanua: watch about 20 minutes – FSU Law Professor Murder Trial – Day 9 – Co-Defendant Katherine Magbanua Testifies Part 4
5. Sedrick Nobles: watch about 15 minutes – FSU Law Professor Murder Trial – Day 4 – Witness: Mr. Nobles
5. Closing statements of the prosecutor and Sigfredo Garcia’s attorney. Watch about 15 minutes of each of these two attorneys presenting their closing statements.
6. Optional: Listen to the testimony of Special Agent Oscar Jimenez (bonus points available).

Your write-up of the case needs to include the following information:
Court: Name of the State District Trial Court and where the court is located.
What crimes were the original three defendants’ accused of committing? (name all three counts)?
Sigfredo Garcia and Katherine Magbanua were tried in one trial. (a) Name Sigfredo Garcia’s attorney. (b) What are the names of Katherine Magbanau’s two attorneys? Include first and last names of all of the attorneys.
Name (first and last) of the prosecuting attorney
Name (first and last) of the presiding judge
Name (first and last) of the victim
Why was the victim killed?
Where did the killing occur (city and state)?
(a) Where was the victim when he was shot? (b) What did he say to the person he was talking to on his cell phone just before he was shot?
(a) Who found him after he was shot? (b) What description did this individual give to the police about the get-away vehicle?
When did the murder take place?
(a) Discuss Wendi Adelson’s relationship with the victim. What was currently occurring between the two of them in the months prior to the shooting? (b) What role did immunity play with respect to her testimony? (c) Was her testimony believable? Explain your answer.
The testimony of Luis Rivera was very important for the prosecutor’s office and the state. (a) Explain why his testimony was so important? (b) What was Luis Rivera given in exchange for his testimony?
(a) Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera were directly involved in the commission of the crime. From Rivera’s testimony, it appears that a third party told one of them about the opportunity to make a lot of money by killing the plaintiff. What is this individual’s name? Who did this third person tell – Garcia or Rivera? (d) How much money was promised for the killing of the victim?
(a) To carry out the crime, Rivera decided a gun that was not traceable was needed. Where did he purchase this gun?
(a) How many trips did Garcia and Rivera make from Miami to the city where the crime was committed? Explain what Garcia and Rivera did on the first trip? (b) When did the first trip take place? (c) Who was supposed to be the shooter the first time they made the trip? (d) Why wasn’t the crime committed during the first trip?
When the second trip was made there was a change of plans. The person who had agreed to be the shooter decided he would not be the shooter. (a) Why did he change his mind? (b) Where did Garcia and Rivera go in the 2-3 hours just before the shooting?
(a) What two things did Garcia and Rivera ask Sedrick Noble to do on each trip? (b) On the second trip Noble was asked to do a third activity. What was it?
(a) What vehicle was rented for the second trip? (b) In what city was it rented? (c) describe the vehicle.
During Rivera’s testimony, he was asked several times about his memberhip in an organization. (a) What is the name of the organization? (b) What position did he hold in the organization? (c) Describe the type of activities the members of the organization participate in.
(a) Does Rivera know how to read and write? What testimony was given that supports your answer? (b) When Rivera was asked about what he does to make money (to support himself and his family) what did he say he did (job title)? (c) When asked to explain what someone who has this “job” does, what did he say?
Kathrine Magbanua knew Garcia and Rivera before the murder took place. (a) How did she know both of them? (b) Who is the father of Magbanua’s children? (c) Who was Magbanua dating at the time of the murder? (d) What is your opinion about Magbanua’s alleged involvement in the crime based on her testimony?
According to Rivera who had possession of the $100,000 that was the payment for the murder the day after the murder was committed? What were the arrangements for the transfer of the money to Rivera and Garcia the day after the murder? Hint, what did a barber shop have to do with the transfer of the money?
How much money did each of the three individuals get for committing the crime according to Rivera?
Sedrick Nobel testified for the prosecution. Listen to Noble being questioned by Garcia’s attorney. (a) What do you learn about Noble’s background and how he lives? (b) What does Noble think about the questions Garcia’s attorney asked? (c) Does it sound like Garcia’s attorney understands Noble’s background and how he lives or does it sound like the attorney has some preconceived ideas? Explain your answer.
(a) Do you think the prosecuting attorney was effective in her closing argument? (b) Why or why not? (c) Do you think the defendant Garcia’s attorney was effective in his closing argument? (d) Why or why not?
(a) What was the verdict of the jury for Sigfredo Garcia? (b) What sentence did defendant Sigfredo Garcia receive? (b) Do you agree or disagree with the verdict of the jury? Explain your answer.
The jury deliberated for 11 hours regarding a verdict for Katherine Magbanua. (a) What happened? (b) What will happen in 2021 with respect to Magbanua?
Which portions of the trial did you watch? Note: trials can be interesting to watch and you may have watched witness testimony that is not included in this assignment. If so, please include this information in your answer.
Your insights/comments (10 points): (a) Considering Rivera’s background and lifestyle, was his testimony believable? (b) Why or why not? (c) Based on the portions of the trial you watched, what is your opinion as to who probably arranged for the victim to be killed? (Your answer should be 3-4 sentences in length). (d) Comment on some aspect of the trial that you found interesting.
The judge in this case is known for being fair but tough. He is also known for making comments to attorneys as to what is acceptable format and/or questions to ask. Describe two situations where he made comments to attorneys.
COURTROOM ATTENDANCE: If you have ever been in a courtroom prior to this assignment, please briefly describe your previous experience. (1 bonus point)
BONUS (15 points): Listen to the testimony of Special Agent Oscar Jimenez (FBI). (a) The FBI used a special technique to get some people talking who might have known something about the murder. What is this technique called? (b) How does the technique work? (C) What do you think the FBI hoped to learn through their wiretaps? (d) Did the FBI obtain useful information? Explain your answer.

DIRECTIONS: Be sure to use a title page, double space your answers and comments, and use the numbers and letters provided for your answers. With the exception of “Yes” or “No” answers, please use complete sentences for your answers.

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