Defense Attorneys in ‘Junior’ Trial Argue Defendants Only Trying To Intimidate, Not Kill Him

June 11, 2019 Updated: June 12, 2019

Defense lawyers for four of the five defendants in the murder case of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman Feliz, claim the group were just trying to rough him up to intimidate him, not kill him, so they should not receive the harshest punishment.

In a pitch to jurors on Monday, June 10, the defense attorneys argued to persuade them that just one of the group of five was responsible for Junior’s murder in the brutal gang attack last year, reported Pix11.

Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, 15, was dragged out of a Bronx bodega on 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue in New York and was slashed to death by gang members wielding a machete on June 20, 2018.

The five suspects—Manuel Rivera, Elvin Garcia, Jose Muniz, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, and Jonaiki Martinez Estrella—are charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, gang assault, conspiracy, and criminal possession of a weapon.

Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan has maintained that the whole group had the intention of murdering Guzman-Feliz that night.

In defense of suspect Jose Muniz, who was seen on security footage wielding a machete, attorney Martin Goldberg argued his client had turned the weapon’s blade from its sharp, slicing side, to its blunt side during the incident.

Goldberg argued that the surveillance video supported his claim.

Muniz’s attorney said that the action of turning the blade to its blunt side was done on purpose so as to not cause serious injury, but to frighten and intimidate Guzman-Feliz.

He added that his client is not a killer as he could have delivered “mutilating blows to him, but he didn’t,” reported Pix11.

“Turning that blade does not make him a hero. But it also does not make him a killer,” Goldberg said.

“Jose Muniz has no one to blame but himself for getting involved with this group of idiots. But he is not a killer.”

The remaining attorneys appealed to the jury in a similar way, claiming that only Jonaiki Martinez Estrella was responsible for the murder. According to the medical examiner, Estrella delivered the fatal blow, reported Pix11.

The attorneys argued that the other four defendants got themselves wound up in a “gang assault.”

Amy Attias, attorney for suspect Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez, said Estrella “went rogue.”

“That person had a different intent,” Attias added.

Guzman-Feliz received the fatal blow not from Muniz’s machete, but from a “knife 4 1/2 inches in depth,” which went through his neck, cutting his jugular vein, according to medical examiner Dr. Sophia Rodriguez, who performed his autopsy.

Describing the final moments of Guzman-Feliz’s life, Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan on May 6 said he was “alone, unarmed, defenseless and outmanned,” reported Crime Online.

Authorities said the suspects are members of the Trinitarios gang. They said Guzman-Feliz, who dreamed of becoming a police officer and was a member of the NYPD’s Explorers program, may have been mistakenly targeted by the gang.

Police said the teen was not involved in any gang and even participated in NYPD’s Explorers program, which helps “teens and young adults learn about law enforcement and careers in the field,” according to the program’s website.

The 15-year-old was remembered in a funeral service held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Bronx, which was attended by thousands.

Kyle Watters, who is an attorney for Estrella, will accompany the suspect on Tuesday, June 11, as he appeals for his innocence for the final time. Prosecutors will then make a closing argument as they close the trial.

Deliberations could begin as soon as June 13, and a verdict as early as June 14, according to Judge Robert Neary.

If found guilty, the suspects could face a life sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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