ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Closing statements will begin Wednesday in the trial of two teenagers accused of beating a 15-year-old boy to death in Winter Park.
Roger Trindade was killed in October 2016. His relatives from Brazil have flown in for the hearings and are present for the trial.
Jesse Sutherland and Simeon Hall, both 16, are being tried as adults and are facing manslaughter charges in the death of Trindade.
“Was [Simeon Hall] the person who threw the first punch?" Assistant State Attorney Terri Mills-Uvalle asked.
"Yes,” Barnikel replied.
Investigators said Jagger Gouda, who was 14 years old at the time, sprayed Trindade with skunk spray as a prank.
Police said Gouda called Hall and Sutherland, who beat Trindade unconscious in downtown Winter Park's Central Park. Trindade was removed from life support following a two-day hospitalization.
Uvalle called Gouda to the stand.
Uvalle: “Did you ever see Roger hit any of those (teens)?"
Gouda: "No, I did not.”
Uvalle: “You said you saw Simeon walk up and punch Rodrigo, right?"
Uvalle: “Did Rodrigo step back?"
Gouda: "Yes, he did."
Uvalle: "Did Roger step back as well?"
Witnesses testified that Trindade lifted his hands in front of his face before he was punched, but there is a disagreement among the witnesses about whether Trindade’s fists were clenched.
The state's star witness, Trindade's best friend, Rodrigo Morales, took the stand Monday.
Sutherland and Hall were each offered a plea deal last week, but neither agreed to the deal, which would have included a three-year prison sentence.
The defense claims Hall and Sutherland are on trial by chance; by an accident of fate.
"It happens every day. It happens at school all the time. Kids get hit and fall down and they don't die," Fussell said.
However, WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said evidence suggests it wasn’t a mutual fight between the teenage boys.
“This was anything other than just a schoolyard fight,” Sheaffer said. “The facts really indicate that the victim was sucker-punched. He wasn't in a fighting posture.”
During closing arguments Wednesday, the defense will argue there's no clear connection between the defendants punching the victim and his death several days later.
Prosecutors may refer back to testimony from the medical examiner about the brain damage that killed Trindade.
The doctor who did the autopsy explained what happened while he was in a coma.
"If you're struck in the face, you're going to have a rapid turn and that's going to injure the vertebral artery," said Dr. Jennifer Park.
She told the jury Trindade got punched so hard, it ruptured a big blood vessel at the base of his head and his brain filled with blood.
She said that’s likely what killed him when doctors took him off life support.
"You used the word ‘probably’ because you were not able to find a lesion in the artery, correct?” asked the defense.
The defense established that no one could definitely say a punch ruptured the artery, but the medical examiner brought in a doctor to rule out natural causes.
Earlier in the day, witnesses described the fight that left Trindade knocked out and seizing on the ground.
"He said he punched Rodrigo because he had smirked at him and not answered his question,” said Detective Lisa Supak.
But the defense argues Hall and Sutherland were in fear for their own lives.
The jury consists of six people and two alternates.
The judge followed a recommendation from the Department of Juvenile Justice for what’s called a non-secure residential commitment.
It means Gouda will not be in a jail cell, but he will be in custody 24 hours a day in a more relaxed setting.
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