Washington won’t testify in his own defense
Police told Roderick Washington he had the right to remain silent when arrested in the 2006 double-slaying of 18-year-old Alexis Sosa and his nephew Jeffrey Sosa, 14, and, as is his right, he will maintain his silence through two felony murder trials.
Washington told Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese, who is presiding the 19-year-old’s retrial, he understood the decision he was making and would not testify on his own behalf. He also chose to remain silent during his first trial in May.
“You understand that you must live with the ramifications of this decision,” Reese told Washington.
“Yes, sir,” he said, the only words he has spoken thus far during the trial.
Washington is accused with nine others in the binding, beating, torture and killing of the Sosas at co-defendant Kemar Johnston’s birthday party Oct. 6, 2006. Washington and Johnston are allegedly members of the “Cash Feenz” rap group accused in the tortures and killings.
A Lee County jury found Washington guilty of two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon during his first trial, and he has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. However, the jury deadlocked on two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnaping and Washington is now being retried on those counts by another 12-juror panel.
He faces life in prison if convicted.
Assistant state attorneys Bob Lee and Marie Doerr have spent the past two days calling witness after witness to testify about Washington’s alleged involvement in the Sosa murders: holding them at gunpoint as they were beaten, carved into with knives, Tasered and covered in bleach, and helping transport them to a north Cape Coral industrial site where they were shot to death.
Party-goers and co-defendants testified to the details of the Sosas’ killings Thursday and Friday, and all seemed to remember Washington’s role that night.
However, when pressed by defense attorney Paul Sullivan to accurately produce other details about the night, their memories seemed to falter. Some admitted to relying on prior statements or were called out on inconsistencies throughout multiple statements, including those made during Washington’s first trial.
Co-defendant Alex Fernandez said he saw Washington “squatting down on the floor with a rifle in his lap,” and later hitting Alexis Sosa in the head with a pistol.
Fernandez recalled that, while at the industrial site where the Sosas were killed, he saw Johnston and another individual shooting into the trunk of the Sosas’ Lexus where the two teens had been placed. He said he couldn’t see who the second shooter was, despite earlier statements that it was co-defendant Kenneth Lopez.
Sullivan recited the earlier statement before the jury, a legal process referred to as impeaching a witness. The statement said that Fernandez pegged Lopez as the second shooter at the industrial site. Lopez was also Fernandez’s cell mate in the Lee County Jail and in 2007 admitted to shooting Alexis and Jeffrey in the head to “make sure they were dead,” the statement read.
“Does that refresh your recollection?” Sullivan asked Fernandez.
Fernandez said no, it didn’t.
“I just thought about it and focused, and I can’t be 100 percent sure,” Fernandez explained.
Andrew Touchstone and Michael Taylor both said they witnessed Washington’s involvement, stating again that he held both a rifle and a handgun on the Sosas, but Touchstone couldn’t remember if Paul Nunez held an AK-47 or a handgun as he guarded the door at Johnston’s home.
He was absolutely sure that Cody Roux, who stood directly next to Nunez, held an AK-47.
Aside from Washington, accounts varied throughout the state’s witness list on who else at the party held or didn’t hold guns and what kind of guns were brandished.
The only physical evidence presented at trial that may link Washington to the killings was a .22 rifle he allegedly used to hold Jeffrey and Alexis at gunpoint.
Ryan Peters said he bought a .22 rifle from Washington that looked similar in size and color to the one presented as evidence, but that he couldn’t be sure it was the same gun.
After finding out the Sosas had been killed on the news, Peters said he dumped the gun in a canal.
“I didn’t want it coming back on me,” he said.
Reese denied a motion by Sullivan to have Washington acquitted on all counts, and reserved closing arguments for Monday morning at 9 a.m.
After that, the jury will be asked to decide Washington’s fate.