Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Testimony to begin in Hoffman murder trial

By Jennifer Portman
Democrat Senior Writer

Nineteen months to the day that Rachel Morningstar Hoffman was shot to death on a dead-end Leon County road, one of two men accused of killing her will stand trial.

Testimony begins Mionday in the capital murder case against Deneilo Bradshaw.

Police say Bradshaw and his step brother-in-law Andrea Green agreed to sell Hoffman, a 23-year-old first-time confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department, cocaine, Ecstasy and a stolen, sticky-triggered handgun in a failed drug sting operation that ended in her death.

Thirty-six hours after 19 law enforcement officers lost contact with Hoffman when she disobeyed orders and followed the men to Gardner Road with an ultimately useless wire and $13,000 stuck in her purse, police say Bradshaw and Green led them to her body dumped in the woods outside Perry.

Courtroom 3-G at the Leon County Courthouse is expected to be packed with spectators Monday, including Hoffman’s mother and father and family members of Bradshaw, 24, who grew up in the Virgin Islands, moved to Tallahassee in 2004 and lived in tony Summerbrooke, not far from where Hoffman was killed.

“I have to come to the trial,” said her mother Margie Weiss. “As painful as I expect the evidence to be, I am her mother.”

Bradshaw’s family watched jury selection last week, and will be there again this week.

“We are confident that God’s will is going to be done in this trial, and we are confident that justice will be served, ” said Bradshaw’s stepfather Karey Freeman.

“The battle is not ours, it is God’s and we stand in the power of his might.”
Bradshaw’s parents said if possible, they will greet the Hoffmans.

“Our son is a sweet young man that has a heart for God now,” Freeman said of Bradshaw, who has two young daughters. “We have a lot of compassion for the position that (the Hoffmans) are in.”

Circuit Judge Mark Walker will preside over the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks. It is the 41-year-old judge’s first capital murder trial. Green, 27, of Perry, is to stand trial separately before the judge in October.

Bradshaw is being represented by a team of three defense attorneys led by Chuck Hobbs, who in late October demanded a speedy trial for their client.

Hobbs, also working on his first death-penalty case, is perhaps best know for representing some members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity two years ago in a high-profile hazing case. He is being assisted by Clyde Taylor and Greg Cummings, both seasoned defense attorney with extensive experience representing defendants in capital cases.

Veteran Assistant State Attorney Frank Allman will be presenting the case for State Attorney Willie Meggs. Allman will be assisted by Meggs’ Chief Assistant State Attorney, Georgia Cappleman and longtime Assistant State Attorney Eddie Evans.

So far, interactions between the legal teams have been mostly affable. Juror interviews were punctuated with lighthearted exchanges. Despite concerns about the impact of pretrial publicity, the attorneys were able to agree without rancor on a panel of 15 – a dozen jurors and three alternates - in three days.

The jury of seven women and five men includes a state department attorney, an apartment manager, a recent FSU history graduate and a paramedic. The jurors include one black woman and one black man.

Attorneys on both sides have agreed to not discuss details of the case outside of what they present in court. Late last week, the lawyers conceded to discuss procedural matters with the news media, but nothing more. Much of the pretrial evidence that typically would be released has been under seal to help ensure that an unbiased jury could be seated in the county.

Beginning today, details about what happened to the free-spirited copper-haired girl who got in trouble for selling pot and agreed to help police to work off her charges, will finally begin to be revealed to the public.

Her parents, who are suing the city for the wrongful death of their only daughter, plan to come from their homes near Tampa and stay for the duration of the trial.

They will hear it all.

“I can’t change things,” said Irv Hoffman, who along with Weiss fought for passage this year of Rachel’s Law, the nation’s first law designed to protect confidential informants. “I just want to be the face and voice of Rachel.”

No comments: