Jury finds man accused of shooting uncle not guilty after 5 hours of deliberation

SAN ANTONIO – After five hours of deliberations in the trial of a man accused of shooting his uncle, a jury found him not guilty.

The deliberations followed intense closing arguments Friday.

For the jury in 26-year-old Joel Michael Eccles’ trial, the closing arguments sounded familiar. The defense’s position was the same as argued at the trial’s outset: Eccles shot his uncle, Leon Richards, in self-defense. Richards, the defense argued, was the aggressor.

“He grabbed him by the neck and by the face and he was threatening to kill him,” said Kelly Pittl, defense attorney.

The men were embroiled in a violent argument at Richards’ home. Richards was drunk and angry that an extramarital affair in which he was involved has been exposed.

Eccles said his uncle was attacking his wife and then turned on him. Eccles then fired a shot in self-defense.

The prosecution was quick to challenge the self-defense claim. It argued that Eccles was enraged.

“That only applies to deadly force when someone is using deadly force against you,” prosecutor Casey Sandoval said.

Sandoval argued that Richardson was making threats and advancing but was not using deadly force, and that the law says, in such cases, the victim has a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.

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