Fatal shooting of murder trial witness likely won't alter prosecution, lawyer says

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APOPKA, Fla. - The holiday weekend killing of Marcus Hicks near Apopka also marks the death of a state witness in a February murder trial.

The 39-year-old victim was an eyewitness set to testify against Arthur Avery, who allegedly shot Hicks' cousin to death on Monk Avenue in 2012.

Hicks was killed in the exact spot Friday afternoon.

Eyewitness News broke the news to Avery's former defense attorney, Kendall Horween.

He represented the accused killer until last month.

"I don't think Mr. Hicks' death is going to significantly alter the prosecution," Horween said.

Over the phone, Horween said Hicks was just one piece of the prosecution's puzzle.

Three men witnessed the shooting 18 months ago.

Avery allegedly confessed to it.

"According to the state's discovery, Mr. Avery made statements that implicate him," Horween said.

Eyewitness News legal analyst Bill Sheaffer agrees while cases like this are rare, the case will move through the court system as if Hicks were never a witness.

"Based on the remaining two eyewitnesses and the confession, the death of this witness was a needless, tragic event," Sheaffer said.

In a different case, Rafael Zaldivar's son Alex was killed in 2012 the day before he was set to testify in a home invasion trial.

"My son was the first and this gentleman could be the second," Zaldivar said.

He's worried not enough is done to protect state witnesses and fear of retribution will fuel a code of silence.

"They need to take stronger measures to protect us against them," Zaldivar said.

Eyewitness News learned there is a witness protection program offered by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on a case-by-case basis.

Prosecutors applying for it must prove the victim or witness is at risk of harm. They also must show how critical the person is to successful prosecution.

Protection services can last up to a year or until the risk is gone.

"A witness in a criminal case can be assured one thing. If they report to SAO (State Attorney Office) or law enforcement, they will be protected," Sheaffer said.