Cristobal Palacio walked out of his home nearly four years ago and shot his ex-wife’s new husband to death in front of his two 6-year-old children. A Miami-Dade jury decided Friday that the shooting was not in self-defense.
Palacio, 47, was convicted of second-degree murder after 18 hours of deliberation. He was also convicted of two counts of child abuse.
Jurors listened to testimony last week from the defendant’s daughter, now 10, who said her father “smiled” while shooting her stepfather, Paul Winter. Palacio’s twin children had watched from a van parked near Palacio’s home as their father unloaded his gun’s clip, hitting Winter six times. Two shots were in the back.
Defense attorney Michael Walsh said Palacio, a Kendall bank security executive, was exercising his “most basic human right” when he used deadly force. He told the story of a man who had been harassed by his ex-wife Jennifer Winter’s new husband.
Walsh argued that Palacio acted in reasonable fear for his own life. Taking the stand Wednesday, the defendant told the jury how Paul Winter had put a gun to his head, verbally threatened him and “hunted” him on several occasions.
State prosecutor Joe Mansfield told the jurors in closing arguments Wednesday not to be distracted by the claims. He said there was no evidence to support them.
“Make no mistake. There is only one victim in this case,” Mansfield said. “Paul Winter is the one who is dead because that defendant shot him in cold blood.”
Palacio and the mother of the children were married for 12 years. In September 2007, after finalizing a bitter divorce, Winter got married three days later to a man she had met online. Palacio had contact with her ex-wife’s new husband about 10 times, he said.
The two had battled over custody of the children. On Jennifer Winter’s 37th birthday, the day her husband died, she went to the children’s school to pick them up, but found her ex-husband already there.
After a brief argument, she left with the children. But to avoid another court dispute, she brought them back to the Palacio residence that evening.
Testimony from Winter and Palacio created parallel versions of what happened next.
Jennifer Winter said Palacio walked out of the house in a rage, screaming profanities, and then shot her husband, who was unarmed. Palacio said he was home with his girlfriend not expecting a visit from his ex-wife and her new husband.
On the stand, Palacio said he had armed himself for daily routines, like getting the mail, or walking the dog. That evening, when he heard honking outside his residence, he walked out with a gun. He said he shot Winter because he thought he had a gun.
Michael Walsh told jurors that his client had no choice; pinned between a “charging” Paul Winter and a parked car, Palacio had to shoot.
Gabriel Hernandez, a ballistics expert called by the state, testified that, based on Winter’s wounds, the .40 caliber SIG Sauer Palacio used could have only been shot from three feet away. Mark Shuman, of the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s office, also told jurors that the bullets that entered Paul Winter’s back were contact wounds, meaning he had to be against a hard surface when he was shot.
Jennifer Winter testified that Palacio shot her husband twice in the back while he was lying on the ground.
“That’s not who I am. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like fights,” Palacio said on the stand Wednesday. Palacio said he owned a gun because it reminded him of his grandfather, who hunted for sport. Palacio’s family, like him, remained stoic after the verdict was declared.
“It is a reckless disregard for human life,” prosecutor Christine Hernandez said Friday night upon hearing the verdict.
Palacio had been charged with first-degree murder; but jurors on Friday decided that the act was not premeditated, according to the evidence presented.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leon M. Firtel will sentence Palacio sometime next week.