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Miami criminal lawyer to argue self-defense in stabbing case

Posted on November 10, 2009 3:00 AM EST

The Coral Gables student accused of murder is now represented by a Miami criminal lawyer who told reporters his client has a strong case of self-defense. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office released the statement provided by the defendant, Andy Rodriguez. They also released surveillance footage, police reports, witness interviews and the medical examiner's report. Rodriguez is currently charged with murder for the slaying of Juan Carlos Rivera at Coral Gables High School on September 15, 2009.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors have determined that the fistfight turned deadly was the result of tensions between the two students regarding a girl. Rivera resided in the same apartment complex in Miami with Rodriguez's girlfriend. The girlfriend's mother asked her to give Rivera rides to school. A friend of Rodriguez told police that Rodriguez had told his girlfriend not to give Rivera anymore rides. Soon thereafter, tensions apparently built between the two teens.

Rodriguez has no criminal history, but school records show that he has been suspended seven times. Three of the suspensions were a direct result of physical confrontations on campus. Rodriguez told homicide detectives that he did not go to school with the intent to kill Rivera. Unless prosecutors have some evidence to support the fact that Rodriguez took the knife to school with the intent to kill Rivera, they will have a difficult time persuading a jury to convict the defendant of first degree murder.

Despite the fact that Rodriguez gave a statement to police, the statement in and of itself does not exhibit the requisite premeditation for first degree murder. Rodriguez told detectives that he found the knife on the side of the road while walking home from work. He told police that he kept the knife and carried in case he was attacked by Rivera. The day before the stabbing, Rodriguez and Rivera bumped into each other during lunchtime. Witness statements are conflicting regarding the lunchtime encounter.

The following day, the students bumped into each other again and began fighting in the hallway. The fight spilled outside into the courtyard. While the teens grappled on the ground, Rodriguez stabbed Rivera five times, one piercing the heart. Rodriguez admitted to the stabbing, but told police officers that Rivera came at him with a pen and that he was acting in self-defense. None of the witnesses at the scene saw Rivera with a pen. That fact bodes poorly for the self-defense claim issued by his Miami criminal attorney. Despite the lack of premeditation, the prosecution appears to have enough to overcome the self-defense claim and get a conviction on the charge of second degree murder.

Suspect: 'Bad Face' Provoked Fatal Coral Gables High Stabbing, The Miami Herald, November 10, 2009.
Categories: Violent Crimes