PROVO — An Orem man charged with murdering his brother-in-law was declared not guilty Wednesday night.
Steve Strate was acquitted of the crime and believes he never should have been prosecuted. "They knew it from day one," he told KSL News following the verdict.
The jury took just two and a half hours to acquit Strate. The words "not guilty" brought cheers from his family and friends, and many of them broke down in tears.
"I think the jury did the right thing," said defense attorney Ron Yengich. "It's a tragedy, Marv Sidwell's death, but I believe Steve did act in self-defense. I believed that from the beginning, and I'm grateful he was acquitted."
Strate gave hugs to all of his supporters as they walked out of the courtroom. All along, he had claimed he shot his brother in law in self-defense and called 911 moments after he opened fire.
During the trial, evidence was shown that Sidwell was high on meth the day he was killed, and witnesses testified he was acting erratically.
Prosecutors accused Strate of barging into his in-laws' home to settle an ongoing dispute between the two men. They argued that Strate was the aggressor and that Sidwell was only defending himself with a small drummer's stool.
The case was unusual, in that all of Sidwell's family appeared to support Strate from day one, something prosecutors acknowledged made it an uphill battle from the beginning.
"We strongly believe it was unjustified," said prosecutor David Sturgill. "But again, the jury made a decision. We accept it."
Strate was set free within a week of his arrest on $1 million bail. The judge told Strate he was free to go and that his bail money will be returned.
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