Emotional day in trial of downtown Orlando shooting suspect
ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
It was a day of emotional testimony from one witness who took the stand in the murder trial of Jason Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 44, is accused of going on a shooting spree in a Downtown Orlando office building on Nov. 6, 2009, killing one man and wounding five other people. He is charged with first-degree and attempted first-degree murder and is expected to rely on an insanity defense.
"This is Mr. Edward," said prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick during opening statements. "This is Keyonda," she continued as she introduced the victims to the jury, one by one, and displaying pictures of smiling, happy people. "This is Otis Beckford."
Police said Beckford was the first person who Rodriguez shot. He died on the office floor in the reception area for the engineering firm Reynolds, Smith & Hills in the Gateway Center.
"He pointed the gun at me. Otis said, 'Wha.' It shifted his attention," said administrative assistant Maureen Daly. She said she heard two shots and dropped to the floor. Then she said she heard Beckford fall to the ground.
Burdick explained that Rodriguez had been fired from the engineering firm two years before coming back and opening fire.
"He left a threatening note and made a threatening gesture," she said.
Burdick began setting the stage to tell the jury that the prosecution has evidence to prove that, despite suffering from mental illness, Rodriguez knew exactly what he was doing when police said he fired 20 shots.
"Diagnosis of schizophrenia was a post event diagnosis," Burdick said.
Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry called a 15 minute recess so that witness Keyondra Harrison could compose herself. She was one of the victims who was shot but survived the terrifying event.
"I said the 23rd Psalm, I got all the way through it," Harrison said. "I
heard a voice. It told me that I was gonna live, but that I had to hide
because he was gonna come back."
In her opening statement, assistant public defender Laura Klossner told jurors that her client was a "paranoid schizophrenic" who was listening to voice in his head which he calls "sharptooth."
"Sharptooth listens to everything he reads. Sharptooth takes on many forms," said Klossner. "When he's not talking to Jason Rodriguez directly, he's talking about him."