DADE CITY — Harleme Larry took the witness stand in his murder trial in a red button-up shirt and khakis. He talked softly and evenly, leaning into the microphone every time he spoke.
"I didn't do the crime, sir," the 17-year-old told Assistant Public Defender Dillon Vizcarra.
Larry, raised by his grandmother after his crack-addicted mother was murdered, is accused in the shooting death of Agustin Hernandez, a married father of two. Prosecutors say Larry, who was just 14 at the time, approached four Hispanic men on July 10, 2010, and robbed them, netting $4. He then shot Hernandez.
Larry testified that his friend, Derrick Wright, asked him to take the blame for the murder.
"Me and Derrick Wright, we was real close," Larry said. "We was like brothers."
He said Wright asked him to take the fall because Larry was only 14, and Wright told him he'd only do two years in prison for the crime.
Wright told him to say one of the men swung a beer bottle at him and he took out the gun, pushed it on his chest, and it went off.
"That's my best friend. I never thought that he'd do anything to hurt me," Larry said. "I thought he'd do the same for me."
During cross examination, Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia asked Larry how he could go into such specific details with police about the crime if he was just covering for someone.
Larry said he just repeated the story as told him by Wright, and that's what he told detectives in a recorded interview.
Jurors heard the tape of that interview Wednesday, which the defense calls a false confession.
In the tape, Larry described how he had gotten into a fight with his brother and wanted to cry, and then went for a walk on Oak Street with a gun in his waistband.
He said the four men he encountered offered him a beer.
"No, I don't want a beer," he said he told them. "I want some money, though."
The men gave him what little they had and, according to Larry, "started getting smart in the mouth."
"Somebody swung a bottle," he told detectives. "The gun went off."
The trial is expected to conclude today.