Schoolyard Murder Trial Closing: “Massacre of Innocents”

The trial of Rodolfo Godinez, 25, is now headed to the jury after nearly a month of testimony on the crime three summers ago that shocked the nation.

Four shots from a .357 Magnum were fired, one each into the back of the head of four college friends who were hanging out in a Newark, N.J. schoolyard on a hot August night.

Three died, and one, who was also sexually assaulted, survived.

"Massacre of innocents, no more, no less," said Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Tom McTigue in his summation to the jury Wednesday afternoon.

"Witness or perpetrator," countered defense lawyer Roy Greenman, who argued that while Godinez was at the scene of the crime, he was not an active participant in the murders.

But the 17-count indictment against the first of the six  alleged MS-13 gang members includes two conspiracy counts, one for murder and the other for robbery.

And, McTigue argued, "Mr. Godinez was the ringleader."

At another point, McTigue picked up the blood-stained machete used to hack at the neck of one of the victims to drive home the brutality of the case.

"Lives snuffed out in the literal sense of the word," said McTigue.

And while the defense had tried to argue Godinez' low IQ (around 75) was partly to explain for his behavior, McTigue countered, "Never confuse formal education with basic street smarts or shrewdness."

Still, Greenman claimed that Godinez'  IQ and every-day beer drinking were "relevant to his state of mind."

Five more suspects are supposed to go on trial after this case wraps up, but Greenman cautioned the jurors: "Your one and only job ... is to determine the case against Rodolfo Godinez. That's it, that's all you're here to decide."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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