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On the eve of the start of two days of court hearings to hammer out which evidence should be allowed in the murder trial of Katherine Magbanua, her attorneys and prosecutors are asking for the case to be continued so a key audio recording can be analyzed.
Magbanua’s Miami defense attorneys Chris DeCoste and Tara Kawass are asking Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler to continue her trial on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder in connection with the death of Florida State law professor Dan Markel.
Magbanua, 37, was set to appear before a jury starting Feb. 14. A hearing to decide whether to continue the trial has been set for 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The joint motion to continue filed on Monday indicCIA audio forensics investigator James Keith McElveen is working to enhance audio from a secret recording of Magbanua and Markel’s former brother-in-law, Charlie Adelson, who prosecutors say is an unindicted co-conspirator in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.
He and other members of the Adelson family have denied any involvement in Markel’s death despite assertions by the State Attorney’s Office in Tallahassee that the former in-laws financed the killing.
The so-called Dolce Vida recording, taken in 2016 by FBI agents at the Miami restaurant of the same name, captures a conversation between Magbanua and Charlie Adelson in which they discuss undercover agents approaching his mom about Markel’s shooting, which prosecutors say detail the chain of information flow about the murder conspiracy.
Much of the video is inaudible and its use in trial – Magbanua faced a jury in 2019 but her case ended in a mistrial – has been disputed with her defense attorneys calling it hearsay because Charlie Adelson is not testifying and cannot be questioned about its content.
During Magbanua’s joint trial in 2019 alongside the mother of her two children Sigfredo Garcia – who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison – only about 25 seconds of the video were allowed in court due to its poor quality.
Magbanua’s defense team is asking for more time for McElveen to complete his work and believes it may end the case without a trial.
“The government hopes the end product will support their case theory whereas undersigned is confident it will contain exculpatory evidence for Ms. Magbanua,” they wrote in court records filed Monday. “Whatever the case, time is needed for Mr. McElveen to complete his work, which could bring an end to this case without the need for a retrial.”
Pretrial court hearings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday to determine what evidence may be excluded as well as whether alleged yet un-indicted co-conspirators in the Adelson family will have to testify. Her attorneys are set to argue that a number of video and audio recordings taken in the course of investigating the 2014 homicide should not be allowed in court.
While prosecutors are trying to bar Magbanua from suggesting in front of the jury any alternate perpetrators, her defense team is seeking to exclude wiretaps, FBI recordings and statements by Markel prior to his death about his divorce proceedings.
Magbanua is the only one of three indicted suspects in Markel's July 2014 killing whose case has not been disposed.
Garcia’s childhood friend, Luis Rivera, testified the two men drove from South Florida to shoot Markel in what investigators say was a murder-for-hire plot. Markel was killed sitting in his car in front of his Trescott Drive home.
Rivera and Garcia are expected to testify about Magbanua.
Rivera pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a 19-year sentence, to run concurrently with a federal sentence in an unrelated case, for his testimony and cooperation with prosecutors.
In September, the case was delayed till February after Judge Wheeler cited a mountain of evidence and depositions her defense team needed to wade through as well as the COVID delta surge in Tallahassee.
Previous coverage: Judge OKs delay in Magbanua trial until February 2022
Contact Karl Etters at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Dan Markel murder: Magbanua trial may be delayed again