Accused triple murderer Luis Toledo tells judge he will not testify in his own defense

Headline Surfer video / Former prosecutor Joshua Wagner and Assistant Public Defender Matt Phillips provide their analysis on changes in the death penalty earlier this year that now require unanimous consent of the jurors in the penalty phase of the trial. This change in the law could be in play in the current trial of Luis Toledo, who could be sentenced to death, if convicted of capital murder.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Accused triple murderer Luis Toledo told the judge at his trial Wednesday that he will not testify in his own defense.

And with closing arguments already under way today, the jury could begin deliberating tomorrow.

Toledo went on trial earlier this month on charges of second-degree murder in the 2013 killing of his wife, Yessenia Suarez, and one count each of first-degree murder, in the slayings of her children, Thalia and Michael Otto. All three were killed in the Deltona home Toledo and his wife shared.

Though Toledo did not take the witness stand, the jury heard his version of the events in a jailhouse interview with Volusia County homicide investigators two days after the murders. 

Toledo confessed to killing his wife after he confronted him about an alleged affair, but fatal blows he delivered came only after she scratched at him. T

Toledo claimed the kids were killed by a neighbor who feared he might be blamed for Toledo’s wife's death and sent back to prison. However, the lead homicide detective testified the neighbor was not involved in the killings. The bodies have not been recovered.

By law, Toledo is presumed innocent unless or until a jury decides otherwise with a guilty verdict. Though technically this is a capital case, the death penalty won't be in play unless Toledo is found guilty of first-degree murder of either of the children. 

Should the latter occur, then the jury of 12 would move to the penalty phase of the trial -- in essence a trial within a trial -- where Toledo's attorneys would attempt to convince the jurors to spare his life. It would only take one juror holding out for Toledo to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole as opposed to death by lethal injection.

What's different in this murder case? While all 12 jurors would have to vote for a verdict of guilty on the capital murder charges, likewise in the penalty phase, their recommendation to the trial judge would have to be unanimous. That makes a death sentence a much tougher hill to climb for state prosecutors. 

That's because of legislation signed into law in March by Gov. Rick Scott requiring a unanimous verdict in the penalty phase from what had previously been a simple majority voting for death. 

What's different in this murder case? While all 12 jurors would have to vote for a verdict of guilty on the capital murder charges, likewise in the penalty phase, their recommendation to the trial judge would have to be unanimous. That makes a death sentence a much tougher hill to climb for state prosecutors. 

That's because of legislation signed into law in March by Gov. Rick Scott requiring a unanimous verdict in the penalty phase from what had previously been a simple majority voting for death. 

The trial is being held in St. Augustine as opposed to DeLand or Daytona because Toledo's lawyers asked for a change of venue citing adverse pre-trial publicity. The trial judge is Raul Zambrano who also is the chief judge of Florida's 7th Judicial Circuit.

Photo Credits: Luis Toledo is shown above from a Volusia County jail mug. Also shown is a photo of the three people the state claims Toledo murdered four years ago: His estranged wife, Yessenia Suarez, and her two young children. The latter was provided to Headline Surfer® and other media outlets by relatives of Suarez.
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards. Frederick is enrolled online at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's a third of the way though the Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation will be in March 2018.