Criminal Justice

Alleged go-between is indicted in Markel case; misdirected 'jerk' email emerges in discovery tussle

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A woman accused of acting as the go-between in the slaying of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel was indicted on Tuesday on a charge of first-degree murder.

The suspect, Katherine Magbanua, was indicted amid a tussle between her lawyers and prosecutors that was chronicled in a motion to compel discovery, WTXL reports. According to the motion (PDF), one of the Tallahassee prosecutors called defense lawyer Christopher DeCoste a “jerk” in an apparently misdirected email.

Magbanua was indicted following grand jury testimony from Luis Rivera, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for helping carry out the alleged murder-for-hire plot, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Magbanua is the mother of two children fathered by another plot suspect, Sigfredo Garcia.

Magbanua was also romantically involved with Charlie Adelson, who is the brother of Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson. No one in the Adelson family has been charged in the case, and they have denied any involvement.

It’s Magbanua’s decision whether to cooperate, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman. “The ball is largely in her court,” Cappleman told the Tallahassee Democrat. Magbanua’s lawyers have previously said she is innocent.

The motion to compel discovery says defense lawyers had to make several phone calls before receiving the first batch of discovery, and the electronic files received were “monstrously disorganized and illogically labeled.” Defense lawyer Christopher DeCoste emailed prosecutors a list of items that appeared to be missing and said in a follow-up email that some electronic files appeared to be empty.

In the follow-up email, DeCoste said that any items that “are not immediately turned over will be the subject of a motion to compel with a request for a massively truncated turnaround time.”

According to the defense motion, Cappleman replied, “Massively truncated? Oh no!!”

The reply, according to the defense motion, shows that Cappleman “is on notice of the discovery violations and rather than concerned with them, defiantly amused.”

“Adding insult to injury/prejudice,” the motion says, prosecutor Amy Lee “fired off” this email: “Will you reply to this jerk? We have given him everything we have up until that date of discovery. Jason is looking at what we have given him to see what he is talking about.”

The defense motion finds fault with another aspect of Lee’s email: It suggests that the prosecution could be withholding evidence obtained after the date of the discovery request. And prosecutors have not supplied outstanding discovery items, according to the motion.

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