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The Miami Herald, (FL)
April 24, 1997
Author: SABRINA L. MILLER Herald Staff Writer
He was an old man who lived in terror, ever fearful of a younger man he was convinced would kill him. Whether that fear was genuine, or was fueled by mental illness or revenge, Julio Mora described Wednesday how it led him to kill two people and seriously wound another person three years ago.
In testimony at his double murder trial Wednesday, Mora, 70, described himself as a marked man on May 27, 1994, the day he entered Suite 610 of the Cumberland Building in downtown Fort Lauderdale and opened fire with a 9mm handgun. He is accused of shooting to death his former employer, Clarence Rudolph, and a lawyer, Karen Starr Marx, who was four months pregnant with her first child.
He is also accused of wounding attorney Maurice Hall, who was representing Rudolph. Mora had filed a $10 million civil lawsuit in Palm Beach County against Rudolph, 56, and was taking his deposition. Marx, 30, was representing the American Association of Retired Persons, which Mora was suing separately in Broward County. Mora, who is not a trained attorney, was representing himself in the lawsuits.
In his testimony Wednesday, Mora didn’t let go of his cloudy, unproven theories behind the shootings, but he did express some remorse for his actions. “I didn’t intend to kill anyone. I didn’t try to kill anyone,” he said. “I am sorry about what happened . . . the pain and agony I will have all of my life for this.”
His attorney, Dennis Colleran, says his client is insane, but prosecutor Timothy Donnelly said Mora’s actions were premeditated. Mora could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Mora’s testimony has been the most anticipated in the two-week trial. But eliciting testimony from the testy defendant has proved to be painstaking. He first took the stand late Monday afternoon, and continued Tuesday morning. He effectively halted proceedings Tuesday afternoon when he tried — unsuccessfully — to fire Colleran.
By Wednesday afternoon, the calm but bumbling demeanor he displayed Wednesday morning had dissolved into the shenanigans spectators have come to expect: Sniping at the attorneys, shooting off one-liners and trying desperately to direct the ebb and flow of the trial.
Although his direct testimony took several confusing digressions, including a story about a trip to Nazi Germany when he was 10 years old, he yelled at Colleran for interrupting him.
“Mr. Colleran, please,” he boomed. “I cannot have the interruptions.”
Donnelly appeared to further agitate Mora during cross-examination by displaying a diagram of the deposition room that included large, color driver’s license pictures of everyone in the room that day — Marx, Rudolph, Hall, court reporter Patricia Grant and a smiling Mora.
Grant was the only person in the room whom Mora did not try to shoot. When Donnelly asked Mora a question about the room, using the diagram, Mora steadfastly refused to look at it.
“You put a picture of me on there laughing. It looks like I am an animal there,” Mora sniffed, turning his back to Donnelly and the diagram. “You did it on purpose.”
Most of Mora’s direct narrative was filled with wild, conspiratorial accusations against Rudolph. He tried to lay the groundwork to prove that he was in such fear of Rudolph’s killing him that shooting first was his only choice.
After making a rash of bizarre claims about Rudolph poisoning his apartment with noxious gases, poisoning his food and shooting out his tires on Interstate 95, Mora said his fear heightened the day before the incident. He said Rudolph threatened, at gunpoint, to kill him.
His fear climaxed on May 27 just minutes before the deposition, Mora said, when Rudolph tackled him in the restroom of Coastal Reporting, warning that he had a gun and would blow his brains out. Mora said he took Prozac, Xanax, Valium and Barbitol before entering the deposition room.
“I tried to shoot him in the bathroom, but I could not do it,” he said. “I was nervous about taking another man’s life.” Once in the room, he said, Rudolph kept patting his jacket pocket, where Mora believed Rudolph had a gun. “Every time he touched his pocket, I touched my gun, waiting to draw,” he said.
Suddenly, he said, Marx looked toward the door, her eyes as wide as saucers. Mora said the door opened slightly, and then a black, Chinese man wearing a ski mask — a man he called “Wong-Chong” — entered the room with a gun. That, he said, was when he opened fire. There is no evidence of a second gunman ever entering the room.
“I didn’t even think,” Mora said. “I got the gun and shot.”
When Mora fired the first shots, he said, Rudolph dived under the table and grabbed his ankles. He remembers shooting Rudolph’s hand, but didn’t say anything about the fatal shot fired into the crown of Rudolph’s head.
He remembers shooting Marx because, he said, “[She] turned to get her purse, or something. My feeling is that she was going for her gun.”
Rudolph died on the floor of the deposition room. Marx died later at Broward General Medical Center.
Copyright (c) 1997 The Miami Herald
Record Number: 9704260126