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Jury Acquits Man of Murder in Case That Sparked Petition War

February 15, 1986

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) _ A man whose arrest for the shooting death of his son-in-law sparked a war of petitions for and against him was found innocent of murder after telling the jury that he acted in self-defense.

″He had me by the throat,″ Delbert Vickers, 51, of Dublin told the jury Friday in recalling the Nov. 20 shooting of Manuel Steele, 37. ″I had no other choice.″

The jury deliberated for about two hours before acquitting Vickers.

″I’m tickled to death,″ he said, weeping. ″It’s been a rough 84 days″ in jail.

The petition war in Vicker’s hometown followed his arrest. More than 500 people, half of Dublin’s population, signed petitions asking that Vickers be released, while about 150 people signed another circulated by Steele’s relatives calling for him to stand trial.

Steele’s family left the courtroom immediately after the verdict.

″What they (the defense) were saying was that if you live to be 51 years old and you’ve had a clean life, you can legally kill someone. It’s the American way,″ said Sheila VanNatta, Steele’s niece.

Vickers testified that he often saw bruises on the limbs and face of his daughter, Linda, who was married to Steele, and believed that Steele beat his daughter. The defendent also said he had been abused and threatened by Steele months before the shooting.

The shooting followed an argument at Vickers’ house between Vickers and his wife and Steele and his wife about the treatment of Steele’s 2-year-old son.

Steele died of a .38-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

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