A Miami jury found Facebook killer Derek Medina guilty of second-degree murder on Wednesday, a verdict that will send him to prison for potentially the rest of his life and finally end his 15 minutes of fame — or rather, infamy.
Medina, who did not testify at trial, fatally shot his wife during a heated argument in their South Miami townhome in 2013 before posting photos of her bullet-riddled body on social media. Medina, whose lawyers claimed he killed the wife in self-defense because she threatened him with an alleged kitchen knife, showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
As the 12 jurors were polled by the judge, Alfonso’s mother quietly teared up and dabbed her eyes with a tissue. Outside the courtroom, she hugged the Miami-Dade prosecutors who won the case, but she did not want to comment on the verdict. “I’m sorry,” Carolyn Knox said. “I don’t have anything to say.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle issued a statement of sympathy for the victim’s family. “No family should ever have to see their daughter killed and then exhibited worldwide on the internet like some macabre trophy to a husband’s anger as was Jennifer Alfonso.
“Far, far too often this kind of domestic violence leads to injury and death,” Fernandez Rundle said. “The jury carefully viewed all the evidence and came to the correct conclusion that Derek Medina coldly murdered his wife to heal his own injured ego.”
Medina’s attorneys had been hoping for an acquittal or a lesser conviction of manslaughter, initially encouraged by the jury’s deliberations for six hours from Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon during the third week of the trial.
“It has been a hard case,” said attorney Saam Zangeneh. “While we don’t agree with the jury’s decision, we respect the fact that they gave the case the attention it deserved.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Yvonne Colodny set Medina’s sentencing for Jan. 11. Medina, 33, a one-time condo security supervisor, faces from 25 years to life in prison on the second-degree murder conviction. But because he was also convicted of using a firearm in the fatal shooting of his wife, the judge could give him a life sentence. Prosecutors plan to seek life. The jury also convicted Medina of child neglect for having left his wife’s 10-year-old daughter in their townhome after he killed her.
Jurors did not opt to convict Medina of first-degree murder, as prosecutors sought. That would have required a finding of premeditation on his part. But in the end, it was a moot point with a life sentence hanging over him anyway.
During a raging marital argument on an August morning in 2013, Medina emptied all eight bullets from his .380 caliber pistol into his wife, Jennifer Alfonso, because “he wanted her dead,” a state prosecutor had told jurors Tuesday.
Afterward, “he is calmly gathering his sweatshirt and stopping to take pictures” of her dead body to post on social media on an August morning in 2013, prosecutor Leah Klein told the dozen jurors during closing arguments.
But Medina’s attorney described a different scene altogether: Alfonso lunging at Medina with a kitchen knife seconds before he fatally shot his wife in self-defense, meeting force with justifiable force.
“Once you realize this knife was in her hand, that’s a game changer,” Zangeneh told jurors, as he held up a large knife that was found in the couple’s kitchen, the scene of the crime. “A young lady lost her life, but her actions caused it to happen.”
Before reaching a decision on Wednesday, jurors had submitted two notes to the judge, asking to look at a surveillance video of the couple’s kitchen when the wife was killed and at a videotaped interview of her daughter during the investigation. The daughter was upstairs watching TV in her bedroom at the time of the killing.
At trial, Medina’s team of lawyers tried to portray him as a “psychologically and emotionally abused” husband whose wife ultimately attacked him with a knife before he fatally shot her. The defense claimed that the internal surveillance video, which did not capture the shooting itself but depicts snippets of the altercation, shows “the butt of a knife.”
“That means that 1.6 seconds before he started shooting, she had a knife in her hand,” Zangeneh, who was joined by attorneys Rick Yabor and Mauricio Padilla.
Medina had admitted to police that he was arguing with his wife in the kitchen before going upstairs to fetch his pistol and returning to confront her again. He also said that she had grabbed a kitchen knife, which he had taken away from her before firing “because she was punching like crazy.”
But state prosecutor J. Scott Dunn said Alfonso was not armed with a knife and that Medina’s defense team “flipped” the story around during closing arguments to confuse jurors and raise reasonable doubt about his intent to kill her. “Jennifer was not attacking her husband; she was not beating him,” Dunn said. “What they were doing in that kitchen was having an argument. … She was not armed when he killed her.”
The defense rested Tuesday, after the judge disallowed its claims that Alfonso was high on rage-inducing “bath salts,” or alpha-PVP, during the spat with her husband. The judge also did not allow the team to put on a pair of experts to back two defense theories: that Medina was a battered spouse and acted in self-defense, and that light and shadows in the couple’s kitchen showed the wife was holding a knife seconds before he fatally shot her.
The state rested its case a week ago after an associate medical examiner testified that bullet trajectories and wounds to the neck and upper chest show Alfonso was kneeling in a cowering position when she was killed by a flurry of bullets.
After she was killed in August 2013, Medina uploaded a photo of the wife’s body on his public Facebook page. He also admitted to killing her.
“I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife,” Medina posted. “Love you guys. Miss you guys. Take care. Facebook people you’ll see me in the news.”
Dunn told jurors that his social media posting crushes his self-defense theory: “It’s hard to tell the entire world you’re going to prison and walk that back.”