Jurors simply could not agree whether Manuel Acosta, the diminutive and elderly Medley metal worker who claimed self-defense in gunning down a 423-pound colleague, was guilty of first-degree murder.
A Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday afternoon declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked after 14 hours of deliberations over three days.
During a weeklong trial, jurors heard Acosta’s account that he was forced to shoot at Jose Valdez. Acosta claimed the 50-year-old man was a longtime bully who charged him while wielding a metal pipe in May 2010 at the San Judas Tadeo Foundry.
Acosta, 69, is five-foot-three and weighs 125 pounds. He and Valdez lived and worked together at the metal goods factory in the industrial Northwest Miami-Dade town.
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A new trial date will soon be set before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Elena Verde.
Prosecutors said Acosta used his shotgun to wound Valdez twice outside of the building. Then, when Valdez ran inside the building, he followed him “like a hunter staking his prey,” gunning the wounded man down with two fatal shots to the head as he “begged for his life.”
He fired at least 10 shots, reloading at least once, evidence showed.
Acosta took the stand Monday to insist that he fired in self-defense after enduring years of physical beatings and taunts from Valdez. The man even killed two of his six dogs by poisoning their drinking water with anti-freeze, Acosta claimed.
“He said he was going to set me on fire along with my dogs,” Acosta said.
Acosta admitted shooting Valdez outside the building, but insisted he never chased him inside. Instead, the accused killer said he ran into the building to dial 911 when the much-bigger man – by then, no longer carrying the pipe – suddenly surprised him by jumping out from behind some crates.
“He was like 10 of me,” Acosta told defense attorney Oliver Morales when asked about the man’s size. “I was scared. He had beaten me up several times and said he was going to kill me.”
But no weapons were found in Valdez’s hand or near his body. And the blood trails and pools showed he appeared to be trying to hide behind crates inside the foundry.
On cross examination, Acosta had no explanation for why he initially told police that he fired his shotgun before the man had armed himself with a pipe outside the building.
“I don’t remember,” Acosta told prosecutor Paige Saperstein.