Monday, June 2, 2008

'Confusing' guilty verdict in teen's murder trial


A Broward teen accused of robbing and killing a Hollywood woman with a gun in 2005 was found guilty of second-degree murder without a firearm Wednesday in a verdict that confused many in the courtroom.

Demetrius Carey, then 14, was originally charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Elena Carrasco. But the jury lowered the charge after a day of deliberation following a weeklong trial filled with loose ends and circumstantial evidence.

The teen, who is now 16, faces 20 years to life in prison for the crime. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27.

''What I gathered from the verdict is that the jury doesn't think he killed this woman, but that he may have been with the person that did do it,'' said Johnny McCray Jr., one of Carey's attorneys. ``He was charged as the man who pulled the trigger and committed the crime alone. This is very confusing and disappointing.''

During the trial, Assistant State Attorney David Frankel never claimed Carey was an accomplice to the crime, but fingered him as the trigger man.

While both sides agreed the verdict wasn't what either side had anticipated, Frankel said the verdict was far from out of line.

''The jury obviously decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and believed that he didn't shoot this woman,'' he said. ``But there was enough evidence to link him to the crime and they didn't believe he wasn't involved.''

Carey's attorneys are planning to appeal the decision.

While the lawyers in the case had puzzled looks as the verdict was read, Carey held his head down and slouched his shoulders.

The teen looked over at several of his family members in the courtroom before shaking his head in disbelief as the bailiff led him away.

Meanwhile, Carrasco's stepson, Adolfo Carrasco Jr., fought back tears and hugged Frankel.


Carrasco Jr.'s father, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, had attended every day of the trial, but could not handle the anxiety of waiting for the verdict, the son said.

Elena Carrasco was her husband's caretaker, but he has been in a nursing home since her death.

On the night she was killed, Carrasco was coming home from church and the grocery store. She was shot on her front steps.

''I think justice was done,'' Carrasco Jr. said. ``My stepmother never should have died the way she did. My father should be at home with his wife.''

Prosecutors allege that Carey followed Carrasco, 56, home from the grocery store and tried to rob her in front of her Hollywood home on Dec. 18, 2005. When she resisted, he fatally shot her, they said.

Surveillance cameras from Carrasco's apartment on the night of the killing show someone on a bicycle riding up to Carrasco's parked car and, minutes later, it shows someone riding the bike away. The video does not clearly show the suspect or a second suspect.

Frankel acknowledged that Carey's connection to the crime was mostly based on circumstantial evidence.
Carrasco's purse, for example, was found emptied about a block from where Carey lived. But neither the purse nor its contents had Carey's fingerprints.

A ski mask believed to be used in the robbery was also found near the crime scene and contained some DNA that matched Carey. But it was later found that the hat contained DNA matching that of at least five other people. Even the alleged murder weapon is shrouded in speculation, McCray argued during the trial.

Police found a revolver in Carey's house missing a single round -- Carrasco's neighbors told police a single shot was fired that night.

But experts testified during the trial that there was no scientific way to link the gun to the Carrasco slaying.

Frankel did have one piece of evidence that was difficult for Carey to overcome. The teen used Carrasco's cellphone about 14 minutes after she was murdered.

Carey later lied to police about where he found the phone and using it.

''It wasn't the strongest circumstantial evidence but you had the one fact of what was he doing with this woman's cellphone 14 minutes after the crime?'' Frankel said.


It wasn't until Carey took the stand Tuesday did a possible different suspect emerge.

Carey told the jury he bought the phone from a man named ''Dingo,'' who had come to his home that night. He never told the police about Dingo during his almost three years in jail because he feared retaliation for ''snitching'' on the man.

The last-minute story may have swayed jurors, Frankel said.

''I think he helped himself by taking the stand because he had a very prepared explanation for everything. He was able to convince the jury perhaps there were other people involved,'' he said. ``I don't think the defendant acted with anybody. I think he acted alone.''

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