A jury recently found Danielle Moyte not guilty of second-degree murder.
Moyte was accused of shooting her fiancé Christopher Garcia (39) following an argument in May 2020.
The verdict came after three hours of deliberation in the Laramie County District Court.
Defendant Faced 20 Years to Life in Prison
Originally, Moyte faced five counts. This included first-degree murder, three counts of child abuse with mental injury, one count of aggravated assault and battery with serious bodily injury. The judge dismissed four of the five charges, so the jury only considered the murder charge.
Had the jury found Moyte guilty, she faced a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.
The prosecution needed to convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Moyte “did purposefully and maliciously, but without premeditation, kill” Garcia.
Witnesses testifying on behalf of the defense included a forensic pathologist, an investigator from the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, and a close family friend of Moyte. The investigator had been a witness for the state. They testified that the suitcase Garcia was allegedly packing to leave contained only boy’s shorts and women’s sandals.
A fourth defense witness, Moyte’s cousin, described Garcia assaulting Moyte in 2018. They recounted a story told by another witness earlier in the trial.
The incident allegedly involved Garcia choking Moyte. Moyte recorded the event, which also included verbal insults, but the video was not shown because the phone on which the event was recorded was allegedly broken by Garcia shortly after the incident.
History of Abuse and Other Issues in Question
Defense attorneys Tom Fleener and Devon Petersen argued that not only was there a history of abuse in the relationship, but Garcia should not have been in Moyte’s house the night of his death.
Moyte’s attorneys argued self-defense against an attack by a drunk, violent felon. Garcia had a previous conviction in 2004, an arrest for aggravated assault in 2007, and a few incidents testified to by witnesses in which he’d allegedly been physical with Moyte in 2018 and 2019.
According to Fleener, Garcia broke into a young schoolteacher’s home with her two young children inside. Moyte responded by shooting her attacker.
Both attorneys for the defense argued that Garcia did not live in Moyte’s home. This was a claim made by the prosecution earlier in the trial. The defense pointed out that Garcia waited until Moyte got home the night of the incident because he could not unlock the front door and had to enter through the back. Furthermore, Garcia’s mail did not go to Moyte’s home. Also, the deed and the utility bills were all in Moyte’s name.
The defense also argued that the angle of the bullet showed that Garcia had been mid-attack when the shooting occurred. Additionally, they claimed that witness testimony for the prosecution was unreliable because evidence from the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office showed the witness would not have had a clear line of sight of the incident.
Ultimately, the jury determined there was not enough evidence to convict Moyte and found her not guilty.
State media coverage of the trial was extensive. You can read more about the verdict here and here.