Prosecution in Johnston murder trial expected to rest case today
By VALLI FINNEY, firstname.lastname@example.org
A key witness in the double murder trial of Kemar Johnston testified several times Monday that he had no recollection of some events surrounding the killing of two cousins, even after a defense attorney asked him to read passages from previous depositions.
Paul Nunes, who has asked that his plea agreement be withdrawn because he believes his attorney lied to him, told Johnston’s defense attorney, Terrence M. Lenamon, he couldn’t remember what happened at certain times during and after a birthday party in October 2006 at a Cape Coral duplex which resulted in Jeffrey Sosa, 14, and his 18-year-old cousin, Alexis Sosa being killed.
Nunes is one of 10 people charged in connection with the Sosas’ deaths. They had been beaten, zapped with a Taser and hog-tied. They were driven to an industrial area in North Cape Coral and shot. Fire units responding to a reported car fire found the bodies. Alexis Sosa was burned.
Johnston, 23, faces two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole, or death.
Lenamon queried Nunes about the plea agreement in which he would have spent 40 years in prison. instead of facing life in prison. Nunes’ request to withdraw his plea has yet to be ruled on by Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese who is presiding over Johnston’s trial.
Nunes admitted on the stand that Cape Coral police continued asking him questions even though he had asked for an attorney. His attorney at the time never filed a motion seeking to have his statement quashed, he said.
During questioning by Assistant State Attorney Marie Doerr, Nunes said he freely spoke with law enforcement officials about what happened.
Nunes admitted hearing a gunshot in a room during the party, but “I didn’t see it.” He said he heard “seven or 10” shots in the industrial area.
“And you participated in these killings?” Lenamon asked.
“No, sir,” Nunes replied.
Kenneth “Ant” Lopez came up with the lies Nunes was to tell law enforcement,” Nunes said, adding Lopez listened in while Nunes spoke with police.
Another witness in the case, a passerby who was with his daughter driving through the area, said they saw a man throw something in a trash can down the street from the duplex.
“There have been incidents at that duplex ever since I lived there,” the man said, adding he didn’t know the day he saw a man throwing items in the trash that the structure was associated with a murder.
He saw four people in a car, and a white man was driving. He had unusual hair a red afro.
The prosecution next called Alex Suarez, whose 32nd birthday was Monday, the day he testified. He is a tattoo artist by trade and knew Johnston because he did several tattoos on Johnston including the words Cash Feenz on his hands.
Suarez has long dreadlocks in his hair and it is brownish-colored with blond streaks.
Suarez confirmed it was around the time of the killings that people first said he looked like Kenneth Lopez and Cape Coral police never asked him where he was the night of the party. Lopez is charged in connection with the case.
“I don’t think they asked me that,” he said during cross-examination by Lenamon.
A few days after the birthday party where the Sosas were killed, Suarez went to Johnston’s house in Cape Coral to buy some marijuana. Other people were at the house.
Once inside the house, Suarez said he saw a gun and asked Johnston if it was for sale.
“I think I gave him fifty or a hundred dollars and was to come back and do some tattoos on him,” Suarez said. He never did.
The prosecution showed Suarez a gun, which he identified. It came with two clips, he said. But the bullets showed to him were not the same ones he remembered, he said.
However he said his then-girlfriend had removed the gun from their house and put it in a car.
When he found out the police were searching for him, he called them and met them at his father’s house. Suarez turned the gun over to them.
During cross examination, Suarez was asked whether he assumed the gun belonged to Johnston.
“I didn’t assume it belonged to him,” he answered. “I just asked if it was for sale.”
Two Cape Coral police officers, Michael Catania and Bennett Walker, testified about some guns apparently connected to the killings, including receiving a 9mm Glock from Suarez, recovering a .22-caliber rifle from a canal in November 2006 on Northeast 14th Avenue, and sending a weapon to Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing.
But when Lenamon attempted to ask questions about other things the two officers did in the investigation, Doerr objected, saying it was outside the scope of direct examination. Reese would not allow Lenamon to continue the questioning.
Testimony in the trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Lee County Justice Center.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case Tuesday and the defense expects to be finished Wednesday or Thursday.
Lenamon said Johnston is not expected to testify because Lenamon believes he had shown the jury that he has discredited many witnesses.
Some co-defendents have been tried, others accepted plea deals or await trial
Roderick Washington and Ashley Toye were found guilty following separate trials. Washington received four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years in prison, and Toye was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Iriana Santos, Melissa Rivera, Alexis Fernandez, Cody Roux and Michael Balint have each pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and will receive prison sentences varying between 14 years and 26 years.
Lopez is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 1.
Paul Nunes, who pleaded guilty for a reduced sentence of 40 years, has a court date in March with his attorney, Melodee Smith. Reese appointed Smith to the case after Nunes requested that his plea deal, requiring that he testify against Lopez and Johnston, be withdrawn.