The accused mastermind of the botched burglary that claimed the life of pro football player Sean Taylor heads to trial on Tuesday in a Miami-Dade courtroom.
Jason Mitchell, 25, is accused of hatching the November 2007 burglary of Taylor’s Palmetto Bay house. Prosecutors say he and four other young men drove from Fort Myers to South Florida, thinking the Washington Redskins star was not home.
But Taylor, who played at the University of Miami, confronted the intruders after one of them kicked in his master bedroom door. The suspected shooter, Eric Rivera, now a convicted murderer, shot Taylor in the leg and he bled to death.
He died protecting his girlfriend and infant daughter.
Lawyers selected a jury late Monday. Opening statements begin 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The sudden, senseless death of the home-grown star shocked South Florida. Some 3,000 people, including the entire Washington team and the commissioner of the National Football League, attended Taylor’s funeral in Miami.
The Redskins defense took to the field with only 10 men for a first play in their next game — a tribute to the hard-hitting free safety who once starred at Gulliver High.
Also awaiting trial: Charles Wardlow, 24, and Timothy Brown, 22. A fifth defendant, Venjah Hunte, 26, already has pleaded guilty and may testify against Mitchell.
Rivera, 24, was convicted last fall after jurors, who deliberated 16 hours over four days, could not agree unanimously that Rivera pulled the trigger. Instead, Rivera was convicted of second-degree murder without a firearm and armed burglary.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy sentenced Rivera to 57 1/2 years in prison.
Prosecutors believe the burglary was Mitchell’s idea.
He had attended a birthday party for Sasha Johnson, Taylor’s sister, at the Palmetto Bay home. She testified that Mitchell witnessed her open a gift – $10,000 cash tucked in a purse, an event that led the young man to plan the break-in.
Mitchell confessed to his role in the break-in, according to Miami-Dade police, and phone records also placed the man at the scene. A police crime scene investigator earlier testified that black Reebok sneakers seized from Mitchell’s home matched a footprint found at Taylor’s house.