Opening statements begin in trial of 5 men charged in 'Junior' Guzman-Feliz's murder

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Opening statements are underway Monday in the trial of the first five of 14 men arrested in the death of Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz in the Bronx.

Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Jose Muniz and Manuel Rivera and Elvin Garcia are all accused of stabbing Guzman-Feliz and are charged with first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

The jury is comprised of 11 women and one man. Alternate jurors were also selected last Thursday.

Court officers instructed family members who plan to attend not to wear clothing referencing "Junior" in the courtroom.

"Everybody watched those videos on social media," brother Manny Ortiz said. "I don't know what's taking so long. They know what they did, and each and every one of us here watched those videos, OK? So I don't know why this is taking so long."

In opening statements, prosecutors laid out their blueprint, describing each of the defendants as violent gang members carrying out a premeditated murder -- on the wrong person.

But defense attorneys argued that only one of those wounds was fatal, and that the other four did not intend to kill.

Junior's family is not buying that claim.

"Why would they need those weapons if they're not trying to kill someone?" sister-in-law Ione Guierrez said. "I need somebody to explain that to me."

Junior's father was escorted out by police after family supporters say the defendants turned towards a courtroom packed with family and friends and smiled.

"These guys are sitting there, just looking at us, just literally laughing," supporter Ilene Mariez said.

Friends described a tense, emotional confrontation.

"The family got really really upset, and the father, towards the end, he was so upset he was using profanity," Mariez said. "So they pulled him from the courtroom."

The defense is also arguing that some of the suspects were dragged into this gang with nowhere else to turn and faced brutal punishment from gang leaders if they didn't carry out the attack.

That claim didn't go over well with Junior's family either.

All of the suspects face life in prison if convicted.

The nine other suspects, who are accused of taking part in the assault but not of stabbing Guzman-Feliz, will be tried at another time. They have a pretrial hearing set for June 17.

Guzman-Feliz was dragged out of a bodega on East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue -- the intersection that now bears his name -- last June and murdered with a machete in what is believed to be a tragic case of mistaken identity.

His murder outraged the community and the nation, put a spotlight on gang violence, and led to the #JusticeForJunior slogan.

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