Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Derek Medina needs now, is a good lawyer

Derek Medina. (Miami-Dade Corrections photo)

Unless you've just emerged from a very deep sleep, chances are, by now, you've heard of Derek Medina, the "Facebook Killer."

But in case you're among the handful of people who haven't, here's how the Miami Herald is describing the case in today's paper:
Having just killed his wife, Medina propped her twisted, bloody corpse in front of a camera and posted the photo on Facebook, along with his confession, forever earning the label “Facebook Killer.”

“Facebook people you’ll see me in the news," Medina wrote next to the ghoulish photo on his page that remained public for hours Thursday. Then, with no hint of remorse, he confessed to the world that he had shot his 26-year-old wife, Jennifer Alfonso.

An attorney who publishes the Justice Building Blog, tweeted on Thursday"almost thirty years in criminal law in this town...never seen anything like this Facebook case."

I concur. As someone who's lived in Miami for over 50 years and who's been a newspaper reader all that time, I can't remember case where where someone was murdered with their killer making such a macabre and public confession.

Two days after the crime, to this non-lawyer, it looks as though Medina's chances of ever walking free again are slim to none.

But, just to be sure, I called a real lawyer today.

On the phone, Miami Beach criminal defense attorney Michael Grieco told me, "I've never seen a completely hopeless case. There have been perfectly prosecutable cases with mountains of evidence where the defendant has been found not guilty."

"And there have been cases of a defendant being convicted with very little evidence. The bottom line is that juries are very unpredictable," said Grieco.

A 1966 Miami Springs murder case backs up Grieco's observations.

On the evening of Feb. 8, 1966, Theresa Rix, a petite, 28 year-old Miami Springs housewife, forced her way into the apartment of Frank Traina, a Springs clothing store owner. A struggle ensued and Rix was knocked unconscious. Traina then trussed-up Mrs. Rix and stuffed a gag in her mouth.

According to newspaper accounts at the time, Traina drove Rix to his shop. At some point he realized she was no longer alive. Panicking, he stuffed her into a trash can and then poured cement over the corpse.

After keeping the can in his shop for twelve days, Traina drove to canal - and with the help of two high school boys - dumped it in the water.

A few days later, a cleaning crew picking up trash along a river bank made a grisly discovery.

Miami News, Feb. 24, 1966.
Click here to enlarge.

A day later, Traina was arrested.

The case against him appeared to be open-and-shut.

Miami News, Feb. 25, 1966.

Click here to enlarge.

Traina quickly hired attorney Frank Ragano, who managed to get him released on $50,000 bond.

A few days after Traina's arrest, during dinner with a union leader named Jimmy Hoffa, Ragano told the teamster boss about his newest client.

Miami News, Oct. 16, 1967.

Traina's trial began on Monday, Aug. 1, 1966. Much of the first day was spent picking a jury.

On the second day of the trial, a sheriff's investigator testified that Traina had confessed to the crime.  The judge ruled that the confession was inadmissible.

On day three, Traina took the stand and admitted that he had knocked the 98-pound Mrs. Rix unconscious after she attacked him.

He also testified that after knocking her out, he took her to his clothing store where he bound and gagged her to keep her quiet. After realizing she was dead, he stuffed her body in the trash can and sealed it with concrete and kept it in his shop for 12 days before dumping it in the Miami River.

After attorneys for both sides presented closing arguments, it took the jury just a little over two hours to find Traina not guilty.

The trial had lasted three days.

The day after his acquital, Traina told the Miami News, "I would like to tell Richard Rix [the dead woman's husband] how sorry I am this ever happened. Then I just want to forget about the whole thing."

In 1980, while awaiting reinstatement to the Florida Bar after being suspended because of a conviction on federal tax fraud charges, Ragano reminisced about the Traina case with a St. Petersburg Times reporter:

St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 29, 1980.

Right about now Derek Medina could probably use a lawyer like Frank Ragano.

But he'll have to look elsewhere.

Ragano died in 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on anything you read here.

All comments must first be approved. Spam and spam links will not be tolerated or approved.