Prosecutors are objecting to Katherine Magbanua’s defense attorneys calling alleged co-conspirators in Dan Markel’s murder as witnesses in her upcoming trial because they may have invoked their rights against self-incrimination.
Magbanua’s second trial on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder is set to begin next month. Three years ago, her trial ended in a mistrial.
Her Miami defense team last month filed an amended witness list which includes Markel’s former in-laws, who prosecutors have alleged are the financiers behind the murder-for-hire plot that ended the Florida State University law professor’s life in 2014.
Harvey, Donna and Charlie Adelson have all denied any involvement in the murder and have not been charged by prosecutors. They are among 10 defense witnesses listed in the Nov. 30 filing in Leon County Circuit Court.
The list also includes WCTV news anchor and reporter Julie Montanaro and Markel’s ex-wife Wendi Adelson, who testified in 2019 when Magabanua was tried alongside her long-time boyfriend Sigfredo Garcia.
Garcia was convicted of Markel’s murder and is serving a life sentence.
One of Magbanua’s attorneys, Chris DeCoste, said the intent is to get as much evidence and information before the jury, including those the State Attorney's Office has alleged are behind the plot.
“If the government is not going to bring everybody together to finally get to the bottom of it, we’re going to do it so this is the last trial,” DeCoste said. “It is like having a birthday party but not inviting the person whose birthday it is.”
Prosecutor asks judge to halt defense from calling such witnesses
Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler to “prohibit the defense from calling any witnesses for the purpose of those witnesses invoking their rights to remain silent.”
Cappleman has implicated the Adelson family in the plot but has said there's a lack of evidence linking them to the murder.
"Some or all of these witnesses appear to be implicated as co-conspirators,” she wrote, noting that prosecutors anticipate they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights.
Cappleman requested that the defense submit the questions they intend to ask, that the Adelsons' attorneys be offered the opportunity to identify questions they believe the Fifth Amendment applies to, and that a pre-trial ruling be made as to which questions are not covered.
In an interview with the Democrat, Cappleman said she doesn't object to the Adelsons being called as witnesses, but the lawyers "need to make sure they're going to give admissible testimony."
"If they’re not going to offer admissible testimony then they cannot be called as witnesses," she said. "If they’re going to answer questions, I have no problem with it."
Earlier testimony: Ex-wife Wendi Adelson testifies under immunity in Dan Markel case
Wendi Adelson testified under an immunity agreement in a joint trial in 2019 with Magbanua and Garcia.
Garcia was convicted of Markel’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. A jury was unable to unanimously decide Magbanua's guilt, resulting in a mistrial.
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.
Contact Karl Etters at email@example.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Dan Markel murder trial: Defense may call Adelson family as witnesses