The prosecution’s case in the murder of 17-year-old Noricia Talabert — killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting outside a Florida City house — relied on one crucial eyewitness.
The woman never wavered on identifying the teen she said was the shooter.
But the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office on Monday had no choice but to drop the murder charge against 19-year-old Christopher Walker after the woman vanished, refusing to cooperate with prosecutors or answer phone calls from detectives.
“The witness was a real problem for the state,” said Walker’s defense lawyer, Andrew Rier. “Outside of the witness, the state had nobody else. “There was no physical evidence, no telephone tracking, no confession, no DNA, no fingerprints.”
The Miami Herald is not naming the woman, who witnessed the October 2015 murder of Noricia, a straight-A South Dade High student who planned to attend the University of Central Florida. The woman’s refusal to cooperate underscores the difficulty Miami-Dade prosecutors often have in securing convictions with witnesses who fear for their own lives against the backdrop of gun violence.
Walker was only 15 when he was arrested for the murder of Noricia, who was in a parked car along with friends. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a neighborhood beef between teenagers, and the intended target was a boy named Dennis Shelby. He was standing next to the car talking to Noricia.
Shelby himself was implicated in a suspected retaliation murder that took place the day after Noricia’s death. In that case too, prosecutors had to drop the charge. In another twist, Shelby was shot and critically wounded last week.
The witness, who today works as caregiver for elderly, infirm patients, lived nearby and recognized Walker from the neighborhood.
“On a scale of zero to a hundred, how sure are you?” defense lawyer Jonathan Jordan asked in a deposition in June 2018.
“Fifty-thousand sure,” the woman said. “ I will never forget that night ... she was just an innocent bystander.”
Even had she testified at trial, the woman’s credibility was hanging by a thread after a vulgar, combative deposition with Walker’s defense lawyer. Shortly before the deposition started, Jordan later noted, she “made a threat to cut off my balls and hand them to me.” That deposition also featured her:
▪ Angrily admitting to being arrested so many times — for everything from prostitution to armed robbery to lying to a judge since the age of 13 — that she’d lost track of all her cases.
“You name it,” the woman told defense lawyer Jonathan Jordan. “Drugs, all of that ... I done sold p***y. I done did all that. Do you wanna buy some p***y? I can start back.”
“No, I’m not interested in buying any p***y,” Jordan replied, according to a transcript.
“Okay then, I don’t wanna answer these f**king questions,” the woman said.
▪ Admitting to having three guns, a statement she appeared to walk back when she realized convicted felons can’t have firearms.
“How long have you had the guns,” Jordan asked.
“Two months. Excuse me, I just farted,” she said.
“That’s okay, we’ll just notate it for the record,” the lawyer replied.
▪ Acknowledging she continually ducked police, pretending to be somebody else when called, until Miami-Dade homicide detective Zubair Khan was forced to handcuff her and bring her in for the deposition. “If I could tell some lies, I will, to get the hell off this case,” she said.