Two Charged in Markel Murder, But Are More Charges Coming?
More than two years after Florida State University law professor Dan Markel was murdered at his home in Tallahassee, recent developments have revealed increasing tension between Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) investigators and the prosecutor, State Attorney Willie Meggs. Sigfredo Garcia was arrested on May 26, 2016, for first-degree murder and Luis Rivera was charged as a co-conspirator a few days later although he was already in custody on separate federal charges.
One week before the ABC News program "20/20" aired an investigation into the Markel murder, the Tallahassee Democrat published reported on September 9 that the TPD made public several documents that laid out the case that there should be additional suspects facing criminal charges. One 24-page probable cause affidavit from the TPD concludes:
"Based on the above information, this investigator belives there is sufficient evidence to prove Charles Adelson, Katherine Magbanua, Sigfredo Garcia, and Luis Rivera are responsible for the murder of Daniel Markel."
Charles Adelson--the brother of Wendi Adelson, Dan Markel's ex-wife--once dated Magbanua, who has two children with Garcia. Meggs, however, refused to issue additional warrants for the arrests of people named by the TPD. "This is an ongoing criminal investigation that will continue until all avenues are exhausted and all those involved are held responsible," Meggs said in a statement, according to the Democrat. "No statement by this office should be misunderstood as communicating anything to the contrary." The two suspects who have been charged in the Markel murder will be tried separately. Rivera is set to stand trial October 24 while Garcia is set to stand trial on November 14.
How Prosecutors Decide When to File Charges
Police officers arrest alleged offenders when they believe that they have probable cause to believe that the people being arrested committed crimes. Police reports of their arrests are given to prosecutors who then decide whether, based on the evidence, be able to prove the guilt of the alleged offenders beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors generally have the duty to pursue justice, not convictions. Most prosecutors though will decline to pursue criminal charges against alleged offenders in cases that are not likely to result in convictions. The Markel case is not emblematic of how most prosecutors deal with police agencies. Prosecutors rely on police officers to conduct the initial investigations and testify at trials. When a prosecutor is presented with a police report, he or she generally has three options:
- File a charging document with the appropriate court;
- Present a bill to a grand jury to obtain an indictment; or
- Decline to pursue criminal charges.
Some kinds of arrests are less likely to result in prosecutors filing criminal charges than others. Many driving under the influence (DUI) offenses, for example, involve sufficient evidence for prosecutors to move forward with the cases. Some cases of alleged domestic violence, however, can be complicated by the lack of evidence as well lack cooperation from the alleged victims, leading to prosecutors opting not to pursue the cases. If you have been arrested in the greater Leon County area, you should not assume that your alleged offense wasn't that serious or authorities did not have any evidence of you committing a crime. It is in your best interest to have an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer review your case.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.