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Murder trial begins for teen in Coral Gables High stabbing
[July 22, 2011]

Murder trial begins for teen in Coral Gables High stabbing

Jul 21, 2011 (The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- In the months before he plunged a knife into a rival in the hallway of Coral Gables High in September 2009, Andy Rodriguez seethed with rage, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.

Rodriguez asked for his girlfriend's password. She refused. He fumed when he discovered that she had befriended a handsome classmate, Juan Carlos Rivera, 17. And when the two traded glares, Rodriguez packed a blade in his pocket before heading to school the next day.

That day, when the two bumped elbows, Rodriguez swiftly stabbed Rivera five times, including one fatal thrust to the heart, in a confrontation that lasted just over a minute, Miami-Dade prosecutor Jean-Michel D'Escoubet told jurors on the opening day of Rodriguez's murder trial.

"Jealousy, anger, hate -- that's what drove this defendant to murder Juan Carlos Rivera on Sept. 15, 2009," D'Escoubet said, glaring and pointing at Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's defense shot back with it's own version of events: Rodriguez was simply protecting himself. Attorney Lane Abraham, collapsing to the courtroom carpet in demonstration, insisted that Rivera was choking his client so violently that he had no choice but to use deadly force.

"Andy panicked. He was in fear," Abraham told the jury, noting that Rodriguez's neck afterward sported pronounced marks from his attacker's hands. "He was being strangled. He was in a choke hold and he couldn't breathe." The much-anticipated start of Rodriguez's trial Thursday comes nearly two years after the stabbing forced a lockdown of Coral Gables High, and after three days of jury selection. Rodriguez, 17, is charged with second-degree murder with a weapon.

The trial, expected to last about two weeks, should provide plenty of drama and legal theatrics -- Rodriguez's lead lawyer, Alexander Michaels, is known for his combative, aggressive style and on Tuesday he and Circuit Judge Dava Tunis exchanged loud, sharp words over legal objections.

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