A man accused of murder in a deadly drug ripoff was found not guilty on Tuesday.
Jurors in Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley’s courtroom acquitted Carlos Miguel Zacarias of first-degree murder, armed robbery and burglary in connection with the 2012 death of
Prosecutors argued that Zacarias, 30, and two other men had agreed to buy about 50 pounds of marijuana from Ortiz, 34, in October 2012. But when they arrived at Ortiz’s home, they beat Ortiz and the other men at the house before shooting Ortiz in the head and fleeing with the drugs, according to prosecutors with the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
Zacarias’ defense team, however, argued that none of the eyewitnesses was able to a positively identify him.
“This is a case of mistaken identity, pure and simple,” defense attorney Sean Bruner said.
Bruner argued the eyewitnesses gave contradictory descriptions of Zacarias and could not remember whether he was the second or third man to enter the home or whether he drove the getaway car.
Bruner also argued Zacarias could not have been at the crime scene because he was with his wife who was home sick from work that day.
The defense also attacked the credibility of the state’s main witnesses, including Ortiz’s brother, who helped in the drug deal, and a man convicted of second-degree murder in Mohave County who once shared a prison cell with the defendant.
“They’re all totally unreliable,” Bruner said, adding that such testimony should be suspect because it was given in exchange for nonprosecution.
Deputy Pima County Attorney Heather Siegele agreed that those witnesses might have committed crimes, but said their testimony was truthful. In particular, Siegele said, Ortiz’s brother, Julian, had agreed to speak with police before any offer of immunity.
The man serving time for second-degree murder, John Neal, was offered a private cell and other housing amenities in exchange for his testimony.