Guilty Verdict Delivered – Dan Markel Case

June 1, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

We have been keeping up with the trials for the Dan Markel murder case for some time now. The case against Katherine Magbanua has finally come to a close with a guilty verdict, after the original trial ended in a mistrial.

To read a full summary of the initial case, you can find out more in our blog here.

Now that the trial has ended with a guilty verdict, we will cover the details of Katherine Magbanua’s testimony, the attorney’s closing arguments, and the responses to the jury’s verdict.

Katherine Magbanua Takes the Stand

Katherine Magbanua was the last witness to take the stand in the trial on Thursday. Her testimony lasted around four and a half hours. When asked by her defense attorney how she was feeling, Magbanua responded, “I’m freaking out.”

She went on to deny any involvement in the murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in Dan Markel’s murder. Magbanua also denied ever delivering $100,000 as a cash payment for the murder. She denied ever meeting up with Sigfredo Garcia and Luis Rivera the day after the murder took place.

The defense was diligent in questioning Magbanua regarding her jobs, income, and finances around the time of the murder. She did admit that Garcia had helped on several occasions with large sums of cash, but she never inquired where it came from.

When Magbanua’s defense attorney Tara Kawass stood before Judge Robert Wheeler prior to the arrival of the jury, she renewed all of her previous motions along with a new one—the motion for acquittal. Kawass argued that there was not enough sufficient evidence against Magbanua. A motion for acquittal is a standard motion that every defense attorney makes at the conclusion of a trial. The motion is so standard that it concerned legal malpractice to not motion the court for acquittal.

“Did you have anything to do with the murder of Dan Markel?” Kawass questioned Magbanua during the direct examination.

“No, ma’am,” Magbanua responded.

You wouldn’t ask to be put on payroll for your role in a murder, because that would be really stupid,” Kawass addressed her client.

“No,” laughed Magbanua.

Magbanua continued to answer Kawass’ questions easily. However once the cross-examination began, there were a number of issues that Magbanua could either not recall or not explain to the prosecution. The following is a list of items that Magbanua could not answer to the prosecution team:

  • Having heard anything about Dan Markel’s murder prior to Garcia getting arrested;
  • Knowing anything about Wendi Adelson’s divorce or problems with child custody;
  • How often Magbanua and Charlie Adelson were in communication;
  • How she was able to earn more than $17,000 from the Adelson Institute in paychecks other than booking an appointment for a contractor;
  • How she was able to earn so much money from working at various nightclubs, or why she would have quit working there if it was so lucrative;
  • Why she did not inquire with Charlie what he was talking about during the recorded Dolce Vita conversation when he asked, “the next day, did anyone take money?”
  • Why she had called Luis Rivera during various times between June and July 2014, specifically on the morning of the money drop and on the day after;

Closing Arguments

The closing arguments were provided by the attorneys on both sides around 1:45 pm on Friday. Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler asked for a list of evidence early in the deliberations that would help them navigate the collection of extensive communications in which Magbanua was accused of being a conspirator in Dan Markel’s murder.

Magbanua’s defense attorney Kawass was insistent to jurors that the evidence they had been provided were only the ones pointing to her client.

“This is an anatomy of a wrongful prosecution,” Kawass addressed. “The easiest answer they could find and went with was Katherine Magbanua. Once they had Rivera and Garcia, they started to build their case around their theory that this must have gone through her.”

However, during her closing statement, State Attorney Georgia Cappleman said there was only one truth in the case, which was that Magbanua is involved.

“She’s as guilty as everyone else that had a part in this crime,” Cappleman said to the jury. “No amount of explanations and excuses for the evidence can change it.”

Finally, after almost eight hours of deliberation from the jury, Katherine Magbanua was found guilty of the 2014 murder of Dan Markel. Magbanua was unanimously convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and solicitation of murder. Her sentence should be announced within the next month.

Responses to the Verdict

As one could assume, there were mixed responses to the guilty verdict given on Friday afternoon. Katherine Magbanua cried next to her defense team, and could not be reached for a response.

Prosecutor Cappleman said she hopes the conviction that was eight years in the making would help to provide some comfort to the Markel family. “It’s very thrilling and gratifying to be able to get some justice for Dan’s family,” Cappleman said. “They’ve been through hell and back I’m just thrilled to be able to give them a piece of peace in their lives.”

Family member Phil Markel announced that he was grateful to the community of Tallahassee for the tireless work of the investigators. “It’s been a long road,” he claimed. “The wheels of justice turn very, very slowly but we’re grateful they’re still turning.”

It is not yet clear whether there are any more expected arrests to be made in the case, but it is safe to assume that the next to go on trial will be Markel’s former brother-in-law, Charlie Adelson—who was arrested last month for murder charges.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

While this particular case received a lot of attention in the media due to its ongoing trials and arrests, any criminal charge can seem extremely scary. Navigating the legal world is not something you want to go about on your own. Luckily you won’t have to. Don Pumphrey and his Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across the state for various criminal charges. We understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense and will work tirelessly to ensure your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation today.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top