Sunday, November 11, 2012

Knoxville, TN: Joseph Rivera sentenced to life in prison for strangulation death of estranged wife

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword sentenced Joseph Rivera to life in prison Friday evening after a jury found him guilty in the 2010 death of his estranged wife, Michelle Rivera.
The jury found the 50-year-old Knox County man guilty of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree felony murder, especially aggravated burglary and especially aggravated assault. Sword sentenced Rivera to life in prison on the first-degree felony murder conviction and set a Dec. 7 sentencing hearing on the remaining guilty verdicts.
Michelle Rivera, 38, was found dead inside her Bramblewood Apartments residence off George Williams Road in West Knox County after neighbors saw her being dragged inside by a man.
Throughout the trial, Michelle Rivera's family, about 20 people, sat in the front middle pews behind the prosecution, while Joseph Rivera's family of about 10 people sat in the pews behind the defense.
The jury began deliberating at about 1 p.m. and reached a verdict by 8 p.m. Sword instructed both families to control their emotions.
"Whatever the verdict is, it is going to create some emotional feelings, but you cannot express these emotions," he said. "We want to show this jury the proper respect."
Michelle Rivera's family filed out afterward and went with Assistant District Attorney Kevin Allen without making comment. Joseph Rivera's family conferred with attorney Mike Whalen, but neither he nor they wished to comment.
While the jury was deliberating, Whalen said the trial was a challenge in terms of presenting a psychology defense — that Rivera had mental-health issues and was pushed into committing the crime. People in general don't like to talk about psychological issues because it makes them uncomfortable, Whalen said.
The defense attorney said Joseph Rivera's ex- wife confirmed he was in a mental hospital twice.
Whalen said Michelle Rivera had control issues and pushed Joseph Rivera too far.
"I told the jury, she was playing yo-yo with a thin thread and it finally broke," he said.

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