When Peter Solomona fatally shot a teenage neighbor who had stolen a Halloween decoration from outside his home three years ago, it made national headlines.
To some, it was an example of a neighborhood feud turned deadly by easy access to guns. To others, it was a tragic accident.
But deciding what punishment Solomona should receive has proved difficult.
In his first trial, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, but the judge threw the verdict out because he said he gave the panel improper instructions.
Solomona's second trial ended when a deeply divided jury could not render a verdict. On Wednesday, a third jury was presented the task of passing judgment on the Buena Park grandfather's actions.
In opening arguments, prosecutor Carolyn Carlisle-Raines told the jury of eight women and four men that Solomona was an angry man who shot and killed Brandon Ketsdever on Oct. 18, 1999, because the teen stole his plastic Halloween pumpkin. She said that Solomona's accounts of what happened are inconsistent and that he lied under oath in his previous trial.
In December 2000, Solomona testified that he had hid a gun under the armrest of his car so he could take it to the store and sell it, the prosecutor said. But in November 2001 Solomona testified he went to grab his gun from inside his night stand when he heard rattling noises at his doorstep the night of the shooting.
Solomona insists that the gun went off by mistake and that the trigger was faulty. But Carlisle-Raines said the gun was in excellent working condition.
"That gun will not fire no matter if you hit it or strike it, unless it is fired," she said. "The gun was held in the hand of a man who was angry and wanted his pumpkin back."
Solomona's attorney, Milton Grimes, said the shooting was an accident because the gun discharged when Solomona bumped his hand against Ketsdever's car.
Grimes said Solomona was frightened when he heard noises outside his home and saw his pumpkin was gone.
When he confronted Ketsdever and his friends, Grimes said, Solomona "was scared and nervous. He doesn't know what's going on, but these are the people who have violated him."
When the gun was fired, Solomona was "in shock, surprise, stunned," the attorney said.
"The evidence will show that this was an unintentional shooting by this man, that it was an unfortunate accident," Grimes told the jury.