Jurors in the trial of a man charged with murdering a bar bouncer last December failed Friday to find the defendant guilty of capital homicide, returning instead a verdict of second-degree murder a conviction that makes the defendant eligible for parole in six years.
While prosecutors and members of the victim's family were stunned at the verdict, defendant Ranala Mane greeted the news with smiles and handshakes for public defenders Michael Esplin and Stott Harston, and prosecutors Kent Barry and Utah County Attorney Steve Killpack.Mane faces a prison sentence of five years to life on the second-degree murder conviction but could be paroled in six years. He also was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of one to 15 years, and two counts of aggravated assault, which carry sentences of zero to five years each.
Jurors deliberated five hours before returning the verdict. Had they convicted Mane of capital homicide, he would have faced either the death penalty or life in prison.
Defenders apparently convinced the jury that Mane, who was heavily intoxicated the night of the shooting, was unable to "knowingly and intentionally" endanger other people's lives a requirement for the capital conviction in this case. Two other people were injured in the Dec. 20 shooting at the Silver Spur bar, however, which left bouncer Michael Brown dead with two shots to the face, one in the chest and one in the right buttock.
Fourth District Judge Boyd L. Park set sentencing for April 22 and ordered a presentence report by Adult Probation and Parole.
"I can't believe it," said Brown's sister, Debbie Lutz. "When do you have the right to get away with murder . . . just because alcohol is concerned? It's just not right. I wonder about the judicial system."
Moyle Brown, the victim's father, called the verdict an injustice.
"I'm surprised the jury could not see through the lies," he said in respect to the defense. "The possibility of that man getting out in six years is intolerable, just intolerable."
Killpack said he is disappointed with the verdict but expressed faith in the judicial system. He said he felt the evidence substantiated a conviction of capital homicide.
"He was sentenced to a minimum of six years, and his sentence could be for life," he said. "I intend to do everything I can to see that it is for life."
Esplin called the verdict "reasonable under the circumstances. There was enough evidence of intoxication creating a reasonable doubt," he said.
Mane, who took the stand Friday, claimed no memory of the shooting.