Crime

Merced County jury finds Los Banos man found not guilty of 2017 murder

Go inside the courtroom where Los Banos man was found not guilty in 2017 homicide

A Merced County jury found Los Banos man Michael Manuel Mirabal not guilty Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, of brutally stabbing 21-year-old Delbert Scoggins more than 20 times in Los Banos, California, in 2017.
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A Merced County jury found Los Banos man Michael Manuel Mirabal not guilty Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, of brutally stabbing 21-year-old Delbert Scoggins more than 20 times in Los Banos, California, in 2017.

A Merced County jury found a 32-year-old Los Banos man not guilty of murder in the brutal 2017 Los Banos slaying of 21-year-old Delbert Scoggins.

Michael Manuel Mirabal was acquitted by the jury’s verdict in Merced County Superior Court on Tuesday, despite circumstantial evidence prosecutors described as “strong.”

Prosecutors from the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and Mirabal’s attorney Jon Richter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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Michael Mirabal, right, and his conflict public defender Jonathan Richter listen lead prosecutor Katie Gates, a Merced County deputy district attorney, gives her closing statements to the jury in Mirabal’s murder trial on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Merced Superior Court. Vikaas Shanker vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

Los Banos police responded to calls of an unresponsive man on Sept. 13, 2017, in the 600 block of Eighth Street, police said. Officers found 21-year-old Delbert Scoggins dead at the scene with more than 20 stab wounds.

Near Scoggins, investigators found a bag with bloody clothing, a bloody pocket knife and a jail ID card belonging to Mirabal, according to investigation reports and court testimony.

The clothing in the bag was similar to the clothing Mirabal was wearing when he interacted with patrol officers earlier the day of the slaying, according to body camera footage. A knife owned by Mirabal also was similar to the knife found at the scene.

When detectives searched the home of Mirabal’s family in the 600 block of F Street, they found Mirabal’s shoes, which had been washed and soaked in water. Witnesses told authorities Mirabal arrived at the home and asked if he could take a shower soon after the time Scoggins was killed.

Days later, police tracked Mirabal to a South Los Banos apartment where he fled as police arrived and tried jumping out a second-story window, investigators said.

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Conflict Public Defender Jonathan Richter gives his closing statement to the jury in the murder trial against his client, Michael Mirabal, on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Merced Superior Court. Vikaas Shanker vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

During the trial’s closing statements, Richter argued that another explanation for the evidence at the scene was that Mirabal was framed. It didn’t make sense, Richter said, that Mirabal would leave a bag with significant evidence at the scene.

But the collection of all the evidence and witness interviews painted a picture that overwhelmingly pointed to Mirabal as the killer, Deputy District Attorney Katie Gates said.

Mirabal was ordered released from jail custody.

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Merced County Deputy District Attorney Katie Gates as a lead prosecutor gives her closing statements to the jury in the murder trial against Michael Mirabal on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Merced Superior Court. Vikaas Shanker vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

A Merced County jury found Los Banos man Michael Manuel Mirabal not guilty Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, of brutally stabbing 21-year-old Delbert Scoggins more than 20 times in Los Banos, California, in 2017.

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