Mexican actor killed Cuban man. Cultural, class divide raise concerns in a Miami trial

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On the surface, the story can be torn from a telenovelaA rich, handsome, privileged son faces justice after killing a poor street worker.

However, the real-life story is more chaotic than fiction. The Miami jurors, not the screenwriters, will write the ending.

This week marks the start of the trial of Mexican actor Pablo Lyle, accused of manslaughter over the death of 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez in Miami. In the circuit court, the jury will decide a relatively straightforward case, whether Lyle broke the law when he finally delivered a fatal punch at Hernandez during a furious road showdown three years ago.

But as lawyers worked to select a jury, they weighed all the intricacies of Miami itself: the extent of Spanish-language media coverage, the divisions between rich and poor, and tensions between Hispanic groups over a Mexican actor who killed a Cuban man in one county. It is controlled by Cuban Americans.

“Race always comes. Defense members throughout the community have heard it over the years — that Mexican, and say it in a bad way — to punch that Cuban.” Miami defense attorney Philip Reisenstein told the judge on Tuesday as lawyers began questioning potential jurors.

On Wednesday evening, after two days of questioning of potential jurors, attorneys chose a six-person jury.

Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez speaks to defense and prosecution attorneys during pre-trial motions on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the first day of jury selection at Miami-Dade Criminal Court.  Mexican actor Pablo Lyle has been accused of killing a motorist in a road rage incident.

Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez speaks to defense and prosecution attorneys during pre-trial motions on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the first day of jury selection at Miami-Dade Criminal Court. Mexican actor Pablo Lyle has been accused of killing a motorist in a road rage incident.

Opening arguments will take place on Friday, and testimony will last approximately five days. The 35-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

different stories

Lyle and Hernandez come from vastly different backgrounds.

The jury will meet Lyle, a good-looking 35-year-old actor from Mazatlan, Mexico. He has starred in several major Televisa shows, including “shadow of the pastor “The Shadow of the Past” and “Mi Adorable Maldición” or “My Adorable Curse” (which once featured American comedian Conan O’Brien in a guest role alongside Lyle).

He also landed a leading role in the Netflix crime drama, “Yankee”. Lyle, a father of two who usually lives in Mexico City, was named as one of the people in spanishThe 50 most beautiful people of 2015.

“I worry about the perception of Pablo as rich and privileged. He isn’t. In Mexico, he might be middle-class, but he’s not wealthy,” Reissenstein told the Herald. “He hasn’t exploded yet. For the past two years he has been destitute, living on the generosity of family and friends.”

Mexican actors Dulce Maria and Pablo Liel, stars of Mexican TV Televisa

Mexican actors Dulce Maria and Pablo Liel, stars of Mexican TV Televisa “Verano de Amor”, which was broadcast in 2009.

Lyle wasn’t exactly a household name, even in his home country.

“If you ask in Mexico, more people know about Pablo Lyle because of his condition, because he hit a Cuban man in Miami,” said Omar Argueta, a popular reporter for Imagine Television, a Mexican radio network.

The other character in the fateful and deadly confrontation is Hernandez, who hails from Boyeros, Cuba, a province of Havana, where he worked warehouse jobs most of his life. His trip was like many others in Miami: He immigrated in 2011, landed a job at Miami International Airport carrying trays of food into carts for planes, and later brought his adult son from Cuba.

Hernandez supported his elderly mother by sending money to Cuba every week.

His family’s attorney, Zina Duncan, said: “He really came to Miami to have a better lifestyle, so he could provide for his mother. He was a man rich in character and love. He was a big presence in the room. You can’t be at a party and not know him.”

Rodriguez lived in the blue-collar neighborhood of Miami, near Miami Airport, with his fiancée, Mercedes Ars. They met while working at the Museum of Islamic Art. The two planned to marry the day after his fatal injury, with the reception in a local park.

On that fatal day

Their lives intersected on March 31, 2019, the last day of Lyle’s 10-day vacation in Miami. His brother-in-law, Lucas Delfino, was driving the actor and his family to the airport.

Delfino, an architect who lives in Miami, cut Hernandez into traffic after he accidentally got off the wrong exit. At a stop sign, Hernandez got down and banged angrily on the burgundy SUV driver’s window. Delfino got out of the parked car and the two started yelling at each other.

The car was not in a parking lot and started rolling into the intersection. Delfino ran back to the car to park it. At that moment, when Hernandez got back into his car, Lyle got off the passenger seat and ran toward the man.

A witness who was in a car at the intersection at a hearing in 2019 testified that she saw Lyle run “aggressively” and clench his fists. She said Lyle punched, but not before Hernandez raised his hands as if to “block” and shout in Spanish: “No! Please, don’t hit me.”

Jesus Ricardo Hernandez, 63, of Miami, died after he was punched and hit his head on the ground during a furious road showdown in March 2019.

Jesus Ricardo Hernandez, 63, of Miami, died after he was punched and hit his head on the ground during a furious road showdown in March 2019.

Hernandez collapsed, breaking his skull on the ground. Delphino and family set off. Lyle was later arrested at the airport, initially arrested for battery.

After four days in the hospital, Hernandez died of head trauma. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office upgraded the charge to manslaughter.

Lyle testified, when asked to dismiss the charge under Florida’s self-defense law in 2019, that he confronted the man because he feared for his family. “I saw this guy attack our car with my kids in it. Lyle actually testified I was trying to stop my kids from being killed or injured. He could have gotten a gun, or he could have used his car as a weapon.”

The judge refused to dismiss the case. He was awaiting trial under house arrest in Miami, and was not allowed to return to Mexico.

Media glare

Since the day of his arrest, Lyle’s case has attracted intense media attention, particularly from the media in Mexico, where television networks, gossip sites, and social media sites enjoy the love lives and misconduct of Latin singers and actors.

After an early hearing in the Miami-Dade Assize Court, Mexican reporters swarmed the lawyers as they were leaving — blocking one of the prosecutors from the elevator, and telling her to walk back down the hallway for additional B-roll shots. I refused.

Despite his modest fame prior to the Road Rage incident, every news of Lyle’s life has since been subject to Mexican media censorship: bouts of depression and insomnia reported in the months following the murder, and his separation from his wife, actress Ana Araujo. ; His brother is reported to be selling his gym to help support Lyle; His work in a Miami food truck to make ends meet.

“It’s like a snowball. It’s getting bigger and bigger,” said Argueta, the Imagine TV reporter.

That subsided on Monday, with a large number of potential jurors citing social media use or television coverage of the case. Most remember seeing the surveillance video – released to the media in 2019 – depicting the road rage incident.

A possible older juror remembered seeing the video, saying that Lyle “was preying on an old man.”

“I can’t be honest. I have very strong feelings about road rage. I’ve already made up my mind on this issue,” the excused man said immediately.

For Lyle’s defense, media exposure was a challenge.

On Wednesday, the defense requested that the trial be held in a different county, citing the number of people who have consumed the media around the case. In addition, lawyers told the court, a mysterious SUV – possibly journalists – had followed Lyle and the defense attorney as they returned home from the courtroom the night before. Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez denied the request.

Race is always a factor

The issue of race has always been a staple of Lyle’s story, particularly in the Spanish-speaking media, where it is natural to identify people by their country of origin in Latin America. In story after story in Spanish, Lyle is routinely referred to as a “Mexican actor,” while Rodriguez is called a “Cuban.”

He is not implicated in the case, said Dario Moreno, associate professor of politics and international relations at Florida International University.

Roughly 72 percent of Miami-Dade is Hispanic, according to US Census data, with Cuban Americans making up roughly half of the population. While there are increasing numbers of Venezuelans and Colombians—not to mention countless other Latin Americans—the Mexican population is relatively small, with many agricultural workers in south Miami-Dade, or wealthy business types in areas like Brickell or Aventura.

Jerry Fishman, an attorney and trial counsel in South Florida, said Miami’s unique Hispanic demographics mean this case is “likely to put these cultural divisions among Hispanics under a microscope.”

“The danger to both the state and defense is that racial and ethnic prejudices often surface unconsciously,” she said. “So while a potential juror may claim that he can be fair and impartial in this case, and put his own biases and prejudices aside, that juror may have implicit biases that will influence his subconscious decision-making.”

Judge Tinkler Mendes, who spoke to lawyers outside of the jury, acknowledged concern about sensational comments online and in the media about “Cuban versus Mexican.”

But as with all cases, questioning would-be jurors was a delicate dance, covering a variety of topics.

For example, Miami-Dade Assistant District Attorney Sean Apohoff, who is prosecuting the case with Gabriella Alfaro, asked potential jurors their thoughts on road rage encounters.

Reizenstein asked the jurors about their experiences astonished by outsiders, the presumption of innocence and whether they could hold it against Lyle if he chose not to testify.

In the end, he decided not to ask any questions about race.

“We asked questions that we felt were appropriate in the case,” Risenstein, who is defending the case with attorneys Bruce Lear, Alejandro Sula and Bhakti Qadewar, said after the hearing.

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