Defense fires back in FSU professor's murder trial

Dan Markel
Dan Markel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The FBI agent who led the investigation into the murder of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel has taken center stage in the trial over most of the last two days. 

Defense attorneys are questioning every move the FBI made.

FBI Special Agent Paul Sanford took the stand early Monday and finished shortly after noontime on Tuesday. He faced tough questions about whether the law professor's ex-wife's family was involved.

"The Adelsons wanted it to happen right?" asked attorney for defendant Katherine Magbanua, Chris DeCoste.

"Correct," replied Sanford.

The lawyers representing Magbanua and co-defendant Sigfredo Garcia are pushing the idea that the FBI overlooked the possibility that the third defendant, Luis Rivera, who was facing the death penalty, was the sole perpetrator. 

"He became your witness, right?" asked DeCoste.

"Right," replied Sanford.

"In exchange for that needle coming out of his arm, right?" DeCoste responded.

The lawyers also probed whether the FBI came up with a conspiracy theory and sought to prove it rather than just follow the evidence.

"Charles Adelson was just using Katherine just to find out more information about what was going on with the bump, because she's expendable. He can use her without any risk to himself?" asked DeCoste.

"Totally disagree with that," replied Sanford.

Then, comments by attorney Chris DeCoste brought the judge's ire.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation, right?" asked DeCoste.

"Exactly," replied Sanford.

"Not the Federal Bureau of intimidation," replied DeCoste.

"Mr. DeCoste!" interjected Judge James Hankinson.

One of the unreported aspects of this trial is that this jury has tough questions of just about every witness.

The questions, asked by the judge on behalf of the jurors, suggest the jury will also ask tough questions among themselves once they get behind closed doors.

Prosecutors have relied heavily on intercepted text and voice communications, and defense lawyers put an expert on the stand who testified that more than 2,000 text messages were missing from Charlie Adelson's account.