Prosecutors on Friday rested their case against Mexican actor Pablo Lyle, as defense attorneys called his wife to the stand to describe his ultimately fatal encounter with a motorist in a road-rage confrontation on a Miami street three years ago.
Ana Araujo, a Mexican influencer and also an actress, testified that she was in an SUV with Lyle and their two children when an upset motorist got out of his car, banged on the driver’s side window and began “saying nasty things.”
“At that point, I was already panicking because the children were very scared and they were making a lot of noise,” Araujo, 33, told jurors.
For defense attorneys, her testimony was important because it lays the groundwork for their version of events — that Lyle charged at Jesus Ricardo Hernandez and punched him to defend his terrified family. Hernandez, 63, who had already walked back to his car, fell and hit his head, dying four days later at a Miami hospital.
Lyle, 35, who’d starred in a string of Mexican telenovelas and a Netflix crime drama, is charged with manslaughter. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Lyle could testify on Monday, although defense lawyers have not announced whether he will. He took the witness stand once before, in 2019, when his legal team asked a judge to dismiss the case under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law. The judge declined.
Jurors will likely begin deliberating on Tuesday, after lawyers deliver their closing arguments.
In a case that has drawn much publicity in Florida and in Mexico, Lyle was arrested in March 2019 after his encounter with Hernandez on a street near Miami International Airport.
The incident happened as Lyle’s brother-in-law was driving Lyle, Araujo, and their two children to the airport to catch a flight to Mexico City. They were headed home after a vacation in Miami.
The brother-in-law, Lucas Delfino accidentally got off onto Northwest 27th Avenue from the Dolphin Expressway. Trying to make a U-turn to get back on the expressway, he cut off Hernandez. Both cars stopped at the intersection of Northwest 27th Avenue and 14th Street.
Widely circulated surveillance video shows that Hernandez got out, approached the driver’s window and began berating Delfino — who got out to jaw at the man. The SUV was not in park and started rolling into the intersection.
Delfino ran back to the car to put it in park. Lyle got out to try and stop the SUV from rolling away. Then, as Hernandez walked back toward his own car, Lyle ran toward him and punched him as he turned around. The SUV drove off, as Hernandez was sprawled out on the roadway. Miami police later detained Lyle at the airport.
Miami-Dade prosecutors and eyewitnesses have cast Lyle as the aggressor. One witness, Maria Rizzo, who was in a nearby car, told jurors on Tuesday that she saw Lyle “coming at fast speed.”
“I saw Mr. Hernandez put his hands up like this, and then he hit him,” she told jurors. “I didn’t see the victim until he hit him. He literally did nothing but get punched and go down.”
Defense attorney Phil Reizenstein, on cross examination, pressed Rizzo because she initially told police that it was the driver — not the passenger — that attacked Hernandez. “When you told police that, you were wrong,” Reizenstein said.
The trial was postponed on Wednesday and Thursday because of Hurricane Ian, and resumed on Friday with Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Dr. Kenneth Hutchins describing the traumatic brain injury suffered by Hernandez when he hit his head on the ground.
Araujo was the defense’s chief witness on Friday.
She testified that Hernandez was banging loudly on the car. One of her kids hugged her tightly, she claimed, while another tried to curl up into a ball. After Lyle got out of the SUV, “I heard Mr. Hernandez scream nasty things, and he was continuing to be very aggressive,” she said during questioning by defense attorney Alejandro Sola.
During cross-examination, Araujo insisted she and Lyle were still married (she referred to him as her “ex” on a podcast). Prosecutor Shawn Abuhoff pressed her on discrepancies in her testimony — during a deposition, for example, she did not say Hernandez grabbed Delfino, as she did on the witness stand.
Araujo also testified she did not see the fatal punch.