Jury selected in Bravo murder trial


Defendant Pedro Bravo attends jury selection in Courtroom 1B of the Alachua County Criminal Justice Center Monday. Bravo is on trial for the murder of University of Florida student Christian Aguilar.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, August 4, 2014 at 11:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 4, 2014 at 9:24 p.m.

A jury was impaneled late Monday afternoon to decide if former Santa Fe College student Pedro Bravo killed his friend Christian Aguilar in 2012 and left his body in a Levy County forest, a crime that drew crowds of volunteers to Gainesville to search for Aguilar.

Facts

Updates from the courtroom

Sun reporter Cindy Swirko is posting updates from jury selection. Follow her @CindySwirko.

Bravo, 20, spoke quietly in court Monday to briefly answer with a “Yes, your honor” or “No, your honor” to questions from Circuit Judge James Colaw on whether he understood the jury selection and had any concerns about it.

The trial will begin Tuesday morning and is scheduled for two weeks.

Bravo is charged with murder, kidnapping and five other charges regarding the September 2012 death of Aguilar, an 18-year-old University of Florida student. Police believe it may have stemmed from Aguilar dating a woman whom Bravo had previously dated.

A 14-member jury of eight women and six men, which included two alternates who were not designated by Colaw, will hear allegations that Bravo drugged and suffocated his former high school friend from the Doral area of Miami.

Aguilar was last seen on Sept. 20, 2012. Bravo initially told authorities he beat Aguilar and left him unconscious, but extensive searches failed to locate the body.

In the meantime, Bravo was arrested on a murder charge based on the beating admission and other factors, including the purchase of a shovel and duct tape shortly before Aguilar was reported missing.

Aguilar's body was found by hunters on Oct. 17 deep in the woods of Levy County off State Road 24 near Cedar Key.

The original indictment alleged that Bravo beat Aguilar. It was later modified to allege “by suffocating and poisoning (Aguilar) by some manner unknown.”

Potential jurors were given a special questionnaire Monday morning regarding their knowledge of the case.

The five questions were designed to speed the process of selecting a jury for the trial, Colaw said.

Colaw later acknowledged to jurors that one question regarding opinions about the case was poorly worded and confusing.

“It was a bad question,” said one woman.

“It was a very bad question,” Colaw replied.

Several prospective jurors said they had already formed opinions about the case that they did not believe would change with testimony.

“You can't be a resident of Alachua County and not have heard something about this case,” said one.

Others said serving on a jury for two weeks would cause an economic hardship.

Both prosecutors and Bravo's defense team eliminated several from the jury pool because of their preconceived ideas on the case and hardships.

Bravo was impassive when Colaw read the seven charges against him and gave a brief narrative of the case. Bravo has been jailed since his arrest.

Bravo, slight of stature and alert throughout the day, occasionally turned to look into the seating area of the courtroom but mainly kept his gaze fixed on the judge, his lawyers and potential jurors.

Aguilar's father, Carlos, was briefly at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse Monday morning. He did not attend jury selection but said he will return Tuesday.

Carlos Aguilar and other family members were in Gainesville throughout the search.

For weeks police and crews of volunteers searched Gainesville and other areas of Alachua County for the body after Bravo initially told police that the two men fought and that Bravo left Aguilar in northwest Gainesville.

No members of Bravo's family were spotted in the courtroom.

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