Rodolfo Godinez was convicted today in the killing of three college students in the high-profile schoolyard slayings nearly three years ago.
The jurors announced they had reached a verdict shortly after 10 a.m. The eight women and four men reconvened today after roughly three hours of deliberations Thursday.
Shalga Hightower, mother of victim Iofemi Hightower, spoke today about the verdict outside the courthouse while holding a 2005 prom photo of her daughter.
“Justice is done for my angel and her friends,” Hightower said. “It doesn’t take away the pain, but justice was served.”
Shalga Hightower said she planned to attend the trials of the other defendants. “That’s one down, five more to go,” she said.
Three college-bound students were lined up against a wall and shot in the head that night. Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, and Terrance Aeriel, 18, all died. Terrance’s sister, Natasha Aeriel, then 19, was shot but survived.
Godinez, 26, is one of six defendants charged in connection with the Aug. 4, 2007, triple killing. He was convicted on all 17 counts including murder, felony murder, attempted murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and weapons charges related to possession of a machete and a handgun.
His sentencing is scheduled for July 8.
During the four-week trial, Essex County assistant prosecutors Thomas McTigue and Romesh Sukhdeo called 26 witnesses to the stand, including Natasha Aeriel, now 22. More than 400 pieces of evidence were introduced during 11 days of testimony.
Roy Greenman, Godinez’s attorney, had argued that his client was a helpless witness to the killings and played no active role. Greenman said he was disappointed in the verdict.
“(Godinez) is aware that an appeal will be filed on his behalf,” Greenman said.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.
This has to be bittersweet for them — they still have five more trials to endure and there is nothing that will ever replace there loved ones.
May they Rest In Peace