‘Not a scene from a soap opera.’ Jury to decide if Mexican actor broke law with fatal punch

Jurors will soon deliberate the fate of Mexican actor Pablo Lyle for the fatal punch landed on motorist Juan Ricardo Hernandez three years ago. And frame by frame, second by second, the surveillance video of the encounter will be key to their decision.

Lawyers on Monday urged jurors to interpret the clip in different ways.

Prosecutors urged jurors to convict Lyle of manslaughter, saying the video clearly shows Hernandez was walking back to his car after he got out at an intersection and berated the actor’s brother-in-law for poor driving. The young, fit Lyle ran at the 63-year-old Hernandez. One punch. Hernandez fell to the ground, cracked his skull on the road and died four days later in the hospital.

“This video is not a scene from a soap opera. It’s not a scene from a movie. It’s not rehearsed. It’s not scripted. It’s real,” prosecutor Gabriela Alfaro told jurors on Monday during closing arguments. “It shows you what he was feeling was not fear. It was anger. It was not necessary to protect himself or anyone in that car.”

Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Prosecuting attorney Gabriela Alfaro, makes the closing arguments for the State during the trial ofPablo Lyle in Miami-Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.
Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Prosecuting attorney Gabriela Alfaro, makes the closing arguments for the State during the trial ofPablo Lyle in Miami-Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.

But the actor’s defense attorney instead ripped Hernandez as the instigator, starting with the man banging on the driver’s side of the Lyle family’s SUV, terrifying the young children inside. “Looking over the video, Mr. Hernandez is trying to open that door,” defense attorney Philip Reizenstein told jurors.

When Lyle got out, the lawyer said, he saw Hernandez walking away and had no idea if he might return to his car to grab a weapon. It was a split-second decision, made to defend his family, he said. “You watch the video, you decide if for Pablo, this was a role to play, if he was acting,” Reizenstein said.

READ MORE: Mexican actor killed Cuban man. Cultural, class divide raise concerns in a Miami trial

Attorneys delivered their closing arguments on Monday, setting the stage for a Miami jury to decide whether Lyle is guilty of manslaughter in a case that has captivated the public across Florida and Latin America. The 6-person jury will return on Tuesday to deliberate. If convicted, Lyle faces to 15 years in prison.

His defense team rested its case on Monday, with the actor himself declining to take the stand in his own defense.

Lyle, 35, was a veteran if still up-and-coming actor in Mexico, the star of several Televisa telenovelas and a Netflix crime show called “Yankee.” But even as career was derailed, his notoriety grew after his fatal encounter with Hernandez on a Miami roadway on March 31, 2019.

That day, Lyle and his family were in a SUV headed back to Miami International Airport on March 31, 2019, after a 10-day vacation visiting family. He was being driven by his brother-in-law, Lucas Delfino, who got off on the wrong exit and cut off Hernandez while trying to get to a left lane to make a U-turn.

Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Attorney for the defense, Phillip Reizenstein, makes final arguments in the trial of Pablo Lyle in Miami Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.
Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Attorney for the defense, Phillip Reizenstein, makes final arguments in the trial of Pablo Lyle in Miami Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.

Hernandez honked his horn, pulled up behind Delfino at the intersection, got out and approached the SUV. Delfino got out and the two argued briefly, before the SUV began rolling into the intersection because it was not in park.

Delfino ran back to the SUV, while Lyle had gotten out to try and stop the rolling. That’s when he ran at Hernandez and punched him — in his interview with Miami police, Lyle later said he was “anxious.”

Prosecutors have downplayed Hernandez’s actions, saying he “merely” wanted to voice his “discontent” — and the video does not show him trying to get into the SUV. They also pointed out that Hernandez raised his hands up trying to defend himself in the split second before the punch.

“If I’m not telling you to like that the victim got out of his car, but you heard from officers that this was not a crime, and he didn’t put his hands on anyone,” prosecutor Shawn Abuhoff said.

But the defense lawyer said the state was minimizing Hernandez’s unwarranted aggression, and pointed to Lyle’s wife’s testimony that the children inside the SUV were hysterical at the man’s banging and cursing.

“They want to paint [Hernandez] in a particular way because they don’t like the facts,” Reizenstein said.

Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Pablo Lyle’ wife, Ana Araujo, second from right, listens to arguments along with other family and relatives of Mr. Lyle in Miami Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.
Miami, Florida, October 3, 2022 - Pablo Lyle’ wife, Ana Araujo, second from right, listens to arguments along with other family and relatives of Mr. Lyle in Miami Dade Criminal Court. Pablo Lyle is accused of killing 63-year-old Juan Ricardo Hernandez during a road rage incident in 2019.