On Wednesday, January 25, after deliberating less than 30 minutes, a Miami-Dade County jury acquitted 27-year-old Mario Barcia of attempted second-degree murder of a police officer. Miami New Times, which published three articles about the case, was a regular subject of discussion at the trial.
Shortly after midnight October 24, 2003, Barcia fired a pistol at suspected burglars prowling in the back yard of his Cutler Ridge home. Unfortunately they turned out to be Miami-Dade Police Ofcrs. David Dominguez and Chad Murphy, who were on Barcia's property in search of a vandal. One of Barcia's bullets wounded Murphy, who was wearing body armor.
New Times stories on the topic (which are gathered on our News homepage under "Local Topics"; click on "A Shot in the Dark") documented Barcia's ordeal. He faced twenty years to life in prison. "I can't explain what it's been like for me the past two years, three months, and a day," he said after the verdict. "Justice prevailed."
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In April 2005, former state prosecutor Marshall Dori Luis joined Barcia's legal defense team without pay. He cited New Times coverage as the reason. "This case was a poor use of prosecutorial discretion," he opined.
Then, during jury selection January 17, Dennis Milton, a 59-year-old mechanic from Cutler Ridge, asked Judge Rosa Rodriguez if he could be excused from jury service. His reason: New Times articles had convinced him of Barcia's innocence. "The cops dropped the ball," says Milton, whose brother is a Florida Highway Patrolman. "This kid got screwed."
During testimony, both police officers voiced their displeasure with this newspaper's coverage. Dominguez complained that Barcia's lead lawyer Ron Lowy had told New Times the two cops met after the incident to coordinate their stories. Responded Judge Rodriguez: "I don't want to hear any more editorializing from you. Just stick to the facts."