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Day 1 of Markel Murder Trial: Witnesses called to the stand

Posted at 11:30 AM, Sep 27, 2019


Witness testimony begun Sept. 26 in the trial of two people accused in a murder-for-hire plot that killed FSU professor Dan Markel. Here's a walk-through of what happened on Day 1:

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Witness testimony started on Thursday. The attorneys are in the process of laying out their case.

About a dozen witnesses were able to take the stand following opening statements. Jurors heard from investigators on the case, the medical examiner, even the men who called the police.

"We both heard a loud bang. We weren't sure what it was," said James Geiger.

From opening statements to witness testimony, jurors in the courtroom relived the day that Dan Markel was murdered.

Geiger says that he was in the living room with his wife when he heard that noise.

"As I was looking, I noticed a car exiting Mr. Markel's driveway and then proceeding up towards Betton Road on Trescott. The car moved very quickly," said Geiger.

He didn't know it, but he was watching Dan Markel's murderer drive away.

"It just didn't feel right. I thought I'd walk into the garage and ask him if everything was okay," said Geiger.

Instead, he found his neighbor, Dan Markel.

"I yelled out again, Danny, Danny, what's happened? There was no response but his head was moving back and forth," said Geiger.

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But Geiger wasn't the only person to call 911.

"I heard a loud sound and I heard him breathing like this..*breathes*...he never spoke another word to me," said Schlazer.

Schlazer was on the phone with Markel when the shooting happened.

"He said, can you please hold on a second there's an unfamiliar person standing in my driveway, and I said yeah sure," said Schlazer.

The first day of court also set the scene after police arrived.

In the back seat of Markel's car were two car seats and some of his sons' belongings. On the floor in front of the driver's seat, half of his glasses.

The other half on the garage floor and the driver's side window broken from a bullet.

Other people to take the stand included responding officers, the medical examiners, and people who reviewed the footage of the getaway car.

But in opening statements, the defense told the jurors to consider that the prosecution's star witness may not paint the most accurate story.

"Primero of the Latin King means that you're the head of the Latin Kings," asserted Saam Zangeneh, Sigfredo Garcia's attorney. "If you're 5'4 and you're the head of a gang organization... what does that mean? It means you're a bad dude."

All three opening statements focused heavily on the third player in this murder case: Luis Rivera.

"Members of the jury, you're going to see for yourself," said Tara Kawass, Katherine Magbanaua's attorney. "I wish I could tell you what he's going to tell you in this courtroom, but I don't know. You want to know why? He has told so many different versions of what happened, that I don't know what he is going to tell you today."

Rivera was also charged with first degree murder but he took a plea deal that dropped his charges down to second degree murder and a sentence of seven years.

The trial is expected to last for four weeks.

ABC 27 will be in the courtroom and will streaming the trial live, so stick with us on social media and our website for minute to minute updates.