WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A jury has begun deliberations in the manslaughter trial of a 68-year-old Acreage man who said he was acting in self-defense in 2006 when he shot his 19-year old neighbor to death on his front porch.
Jose Tapanes originally stood trial in 2008 in the death of Christopher Cote. A jury convicted him of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but an appeals court overturned both the verdict and sentence because a juror in the case looked up a word on his iPhone during deliberations.
During his new trial this week, prosecutors told jurors that Tapanes shot Cote out of anger because the teen had made derogatory comments about his Cuban heritage and later showed up at Tapanes' door to continue the argument.
"If Mr. Tapanes was scared of Mr. Cote, the logical thing to do would have been to call 911," Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater told jurors in closing arguments this morning. "But he didn't do that."
Instead, Slater said, Tapanes opened his front door and fired two shots at Cote. One bullet grazed him, but the fatal wound obliterated his aorta and.
Tapanes's attorney, Public Defender Carey Haughwout, told jurors this morning that though they had heard four days of testimony in the case, the entire trial was about what happened in a matter of moments - moments Haughwout said Tapanes felt fearful for his life in his own home.
"The question for you is that when he fired those shots, was he angry? The state hasn't proved any of that," Haughwout told jurors. "What we heard afterwards was that Mr. Tapanes was crying."
Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp delivered jury instructions to the panel before closing arguments. The panel was released for lunch just after 1 p.m. and began deliberations afterward.
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