Third trial for Leon Davis, Jr. begins

6:28 PM, Jan 18, 2011   |    comments
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BARTOW, Florida -- "There we go again. I hope this is the last time we have to go through it."

Those were the words of Julia Hernandez as she stood outside the Polk County Courthouse during a recess from court.

If her frustration and grief strike a familiar chord, there's a reason for it. She has spoken similar words on two previous occasions: the first two murder trials of Leon Davis, Jr.

She and other family members related to the victims hope this third trial will be their last.

"Nobody can go on with their lives," says Hernandez. "We're just hanging there, just waiting and waiting. Going through it over and over again. It's not doing nobody no good."

Davis sat in court today as lawyers once again delivered their opening statements to an all-new jury: all white, 10 women and six men. Davis is African-American.

The 33-year-old is accused of walking into a Lake Wales insurance office in December 2007, robbing, binding two women with duct tape, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire. 26-year-old Yvonne Bustamante, 23-year-old Juanita Luciano, and Luciano's prematurely delivered son all died from their injuries.

"And you will hear the medical examiner tell you that both Yvonne and Juanita died directly because they were burned over close to 90 percent of their bodies with second and third degree burns," said prosecutor Paul Wallace.

Davis' lawyers say despite a mountain of evidence, Davis' financial troubles were not so deep that they would have served as a motive for murder.

"Things were not that bad," said Defense attorney Bob Norgard, "He was not that desperate."

Davis' first trial ended last summer during jury selection when prosecutors objected to an expert for the defense. His second ended abruptly in October when a witness blurted out a statement that the defense took issue with.

This time, family members say there's hope that no matter the outcome, they can at least see this third trial though to the end.

"All we want is for it to be over. Get it over with," said Hernandez. "Whatever's gonna be is gonna be."

Many of the victims' relatives now reside in Texas. Hernandez says they are still trying to coordinate time off from work and airfare in order to travel to Bartow.

The trial's first witness was a crime scene technician, but there are dozens more still to come. If they do finally make it to the end this time  the trial could take up to a few weeks. 

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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