Jurors have begun their deliberations in the trial for the murder of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz — nearly one year to the day after he was butchered by machetes and knives outside a Bronx bodega last summer.
The first five of the dozen gangbangers to face trial are charged with murder in the first and second degree, manslaughter in the first degree, conspiracy in the second degree and gang assault — and face life in prison if convicted on the top charges.
Bronx Supreme Court Judge Robert Neary handed the case over to the jury of 12 on Thursday.
The six-week trial has been punctuated by graphic evidence and repeated dramatic courtroom outbursts from Junior’s mother, who last week agreed to stay out of the courtroom for the remainder of the trial after defense lawyers called for a mistrial based on her screaming and cussing at suspects in front of the jury.
Lawyers for the five Trinitarios gangbangers again called for a mistrial during their closing arguments on Tuesday, claiming one juror had already made up her mind after she was seen crying as graphic evidence was presented in court. Neary denied the motion.
The brutal June 20, 2018, murder of Junior, an aspiring NYPD police officer, sent shock waves throughout the Bronx community, with family describing him as a sweet and innocent boy.
Disturbing CCTV footage of the murder shows a group of men chasing Junior into a Bronx bodega on East 183rd Street before dragging him outside and repeatedly stabbing him with knives and machetes.
Prosecutors said the teen “fought like hell” to get away from his attackers and ran to nearby St. Barnabas Hospital but collapsed near the entrance and died.
According to police, the suspects believed Junior was a member of the rival Sunset gang and killed him in a horrific case of mistaken identity.
Lawyers for the gangbangers have maintained Junior was a member of a gang despite vehement denials from his family.
Neary told jurors they could deliver their verdicts one suspect at a time, meaning a conviction could happen as soon as the jury returns from the lunch break on Thursday.
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