Jury deliberates case of suspected road-rage

rahumada@modbee.comMay 3, 2013 

    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

A jury began deliberations Friday in a trial for a defendant accused of beating to death a 67-year-old Hilmar man during a suspected road rage confrontation in Turlock three years ago.

Michael Joseph Hoyt, 53, of Turlock is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Ken Winter. The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating about 11 a.m. Friday after the attorneys completed their closing arguments.

The jury returned to the courtroom shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova allowed the jury to continue deliberating for one more hour. He told the jurors that even if they reached a verdict before 5 p.m., they would have to wait until Thursday before submitting the verdict.

Because of a scheduling conflict, the trial will not resume until Thursday, when the jurors will either return with their verdict or continue deliberating.

If the jury decides Hoyt is responsible for Winter's death, they can choose to convict the defendant with the murder charge or a lesser charge, such as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Frank Carson, Hoyt's defense attorney, recommended to the jurors that they not be pressured and choose a lesser charge. He argued that his client's actions were "lawful, proper and necessary," and that Hoyt should be acquitted.

The defense attorney said Hoyt was defending himself against an angry, drunk man who attacked his client.

Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson argued that Hoyt knew at the time that his actions were dangerous to the life of Winter, who was elderly, drunk and in the fetal position on the ground trying to protect himself while Hoyt was hitting him.

The prosecutor told the jury that Hoyt was "enraged" when he stopped in the middle of the road to confront Winter.

"We already know when (Hoyt) gets out of that vehicle, he's ready to go," Emerson argued, eluding to the defendant's alleged violent intentions.

The confrontation occurred about noon Feb. 1, 2010, at Linwood Avenue and Paulson Road. Hoyt has said he thought Winter didn't stop his pickup at the stop sign.

Authorities say after the confrontation, both men got back in their vehicles; Winter drove to his sheet-metal shop, where he lost consciousness.

Winter was drunk when he died, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent to drive.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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