After nearly two days of deliberation, a jury in Pima County Superior Court deadlocked in the trial of a man accused a killing one man and badly wounding another.
Nathan Horton was accused of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault in the 2010 killing of Toney Okafor, a star running back for Amphitheater High School in the late 1990s.
The jury found him not guilty of attempted first-degree murder. Judge Teresa Godoy declared a mistrial on the remaining charges.
Deputy Pima County Attorney Mark Diebolt argued Horton shot and killed Okafor and wounded Matthew Beale in retaliation following a dispute in February 2010.
“This entire case is about these words: Is it OK for the defendant to have done what he did?” Diebolt told jurors. “The state is saying absolutely not.”
Diebolt said Horton took the law into his own hands when he killed Okafor, elevating trash talk to murder.
“He brought a gun to a fistfight,” Diebolt said.
Defense attorney Jill Thorpe argued throughout the trial that her client was defending himself from a deadly threat.
“My client had no choice to act other than how he acted,” Thorpe told jurors.
She described Okafor and Beale as drunk, belligerent and threatening the night they came to Horton’s uncle’s house, here he was living.
After a night of partying and drinking at a topless bar, Okafor, Beale and a third man, Jamar Murphy, went to the house to charge their cellphones before going to a late-night party. Murphy was friends with Horton’s uncle and often stayed at the house.
Once there, however, Beale became aggressive with Horton, cursing him and demanding he change his clothes, Thorpe said.
Beale, a member of the Crips street gang, was angered Horton wore red shorts, the color worn by a rival gang.
Beale and Okafor began to argue with Horton, who told the men to leave. They did, but only after making threats of returning with a gun, Thorpe said.
When they returned a short while later, they slowly backed their car into the driveway with the lights turned off.
When they got out of the car, another dispute ensued. As Okafor and Beale tried to run away, Horton shot them in the back.
Thorpe reminded jurors numerous times of Beale’s and Okafor’s gang affiliation and threatening appearances — Beale in particular, with gang-related tattoos covering much of his neck and face, broadcast his propensity for violence, Thorpe said.
“He reacted legally to a threat that was posed to him,” she said. “These people are the ones who came back to his house — he didn’t seek them out.”
Diebolt agreed Beale and Okafor might not seem like sympathetic victims, but reminded jurors both men were unarmed the night Horton shot them.
“If he didn’t go outside with a gun, no one dies and no unarmed men get shot,” Diebolt said.
A case-management conference was set for next month to schedule future hearings in the case.