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Closing statements in Washington trial focus on witness reliability

By Staff | Jul 13, 2009

Following closing arguments and the judge?s instructions in the double-murder retrial of 19-year-old Roderick Washington, one alternate juror will be dismissed and the remaining 12 jurors will begin their deliberations. They must decide if Washington is guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder and kidnaping in the 2006 slayings of Alexis and Jeffrey Sosa.
Washington, accused with nine others in the torture and killing of the Sosas at a Cape Coral birthday party, faces life in prison if convicted. Witnesses testified Washington held the Sosas at gunpoint as they were tortured in the kitchen of co-defendant Kemar Johnston?s home, and also helped carry the Sosas to the trunk of a car used to drive them to an industrial site where they were killed.
“?It’?s almost impossible to make any sense of at all,”? Assistant State Attorney Marie Doerr said during closing arguments. “?This started out as a birthday party, which most of us think as a happy thing, and ended up with these two teenagers tortured for hours, shot, and one of them burned beyond recognition. Each of these acts taken alone is enough to turn your stomach, but put these together and it’?s enough to blow the mind of a rational person.?”
Though several witnesses who testified against Washington were co-defendants who had taken plea deals from the state, Doerr suggested that inconsistencies among the witnesses showed they were truthful.
“We didn’t choose these witnesses,”? Doerr said. ?“Mr. Washington chose these witnesses. These are his friends. You have a bunch of self-absorbed people, high on drugs and alcohol, wandering in and out of the kitchen. It?’s not perfect, it?’s not bought and paid for, obviously they’?re not coached.?”
Defense attorney Paul Sullivan argued the inconsistencies in testimony and lack of physical evidence against Washington created reasonable doubt. A majority of witnesses were drunk and high on narcotics during Johnston’?s party, he said.
“?Those who?’ve drank too much know what it can do to their minds,”? Sullivan said. “?We know from testimony that marijuana only makes it worse. We?’ve heard the effect that Xanex has on your mind. How dare they come in here and pretend to have an accurate memory?”
Sullivan pointed to three police witnesses whose recollections differed on whether Alexis Sosa’?s body was taken to the Medical Examiner?’s Office in the trunk of a car or in a body bag.
“?These people are sober. If you see that in three professionals who have no interest in this case, then when you start looking at the testimony from these other witnesses here, you?ll see that there’?s no evidence against Rod Washington beyond a reasonable doubt because there can’?t be,”? Sullivan said. “?The cops can’?t remember. That’?s why they write it down.?”
Sullivan also dismissed the notion of peer pressure as an element of Washington’?s trial.
“?If they would suggest that peer pressure is enough to make a person commit murder, then I would submit to you that to sit and wait in a prison cell in this county for a chance to testify in this trial, with a chance they?ll never leave those prison walls, is a pressure those teenagers have never heard of,”? he said. “?It’?s enough to make them remember things any way they have to.?”
Assistant State Attorney Bob Lee is continuing closing statements.