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Defense questions prosecution witness in Johnston trial

By Staff | Jan 22, 2010

The defense picked up with its cross-examination of a state witness Friday afternoon in the double murder of Kemar Johnston.
Johnston, 23, is one of 10 people charged in connection to the deaths of Alexis Sosa, 18, and Jeffrey Sosa, 14, following an October 2006 birthday party. He faces two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. If he is convicted, Johnston faces life in prison without parole, or death.
Co-defendant Melissa Rivera continued her testimony Friday afternoon before the 12-member jury. Rivera pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence in exchange for her testimony of what happened the night of the party. Through the plea deal, she will receive a maximum sentence of 20 years for two counts each of accessory after the fact to murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery. The state dropped two first-degree murder charges against her.
Under questioning by defense attorney Terry Lenamon, Rivera told the jury that Johnston is the uncle of her two children and that he was helping take care of the youths while their father, Johnston’s brother, was in prison. She said Johnston had a close relationship with the children and would give her money to take care of them.
Lenamon pointed out conflicting information provided by Rivera in four statements she gave to police and her deposition. He also brought out Rivera’s plea deal and proffer, her story of what she was to testify to about the night of the party in order to fulfill her plea deal with the state.
The defense noted Rivera initially told the police that she had no memory of what happened the night the Sosas were killed and that she did not know who had guns in their possession. In comparison, her testimony Friday was a detailed account of the night that included Johnston and others with guns, people hitting Alexis, and Johnson telling her to retrieve a Taser to use on the Sosas and to use a knife he provided to cut Alexis’ back.
Under questioning, Rivera said she could not remember much of what happened without looking at her proffer. She explained she spent a lot of time blocking out the events of the party, and had to refer to and study her proffer to make sure she was testifying correctly.
“It was so long ago I don’t remember a lot of stuff,” Rivera said to Lenamon.
The trial continues at the Lee County Justice Center in Fort Myers before 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas S. Reese. Assistant State Attorneys Bob Lee and Marie Doerr are prosecuting the case, and David A. Brener is serving as co-counsel for the defense.