MIAMI – Jury selection began for a second time Wednesday in the trial of Joel Lebron, one of five men accused of kidnapping, raping, and murder Ana Maria Angel in 2002.
Last Thursday, the judge overseeing the case declared a mistrial after Miami Beach Police Detective Larry Marrero referred to a defendant who had already been convicted in the case.
"This court is forced -- forced -- to grant the motion for a mistrial because a veteran detective took the witness stand and made a statement that was not relevant and, in this court's opinion, highly prejudicial to Mr. Lebron's ability to get a fair trial," Judge William Thomas said Thursday.
Angel was 18-years-old in the spring of 2002, two months from graduating South Miami High, when she was out celebrating an anniversary with then boyfriend Nelson Portobanco on South Beach when five people kidnapped them and forced them into their truck at gunpoint, said investigators.
As they rode north to Orlando where the defendants came from, Angel was repeatedly raped and Nelson was beaten, said prosecutors. Police said Portobanco was eventually thrown out of the truck along I-95 and left for dead. He took the stand Wednesday, describing the kidnap and rape of his girlfriend.
The five are accused of killing Angel execution-style at the side of I-95 near Boca Raton to keep her from identifying them. Police said Lebron, now 33, was the gunman.
Three of the five have been convicted. Two were sentenced to life in prison; one is awaiting a second sentencing hearing since his death penalty sentence was overturned.
If convicted, Lebron could face the death penalty.