A jury on Thursday found Diamond Bar resident Kyle Jacobs, accused of murdering his former roommate, guilty of voluntary manslaughter and thus not guilty of murder.
The 12 jurors, six men and six women, delivered their verdict just after 8:30 a.m., after dealing with a minor glitch with the verdict forms. It took jurors a day and a half to reach their decision.
A look of relief came over the defendant’s face. He smiled at his mother, Christine Jacobs, after the verdict was read. Jacobs insisted he was defending himself when he fired a shotgun at 39-year-old Ryan Modica on April 7, 2011. He insists an angry Modica threatened to strike him with a hammer after a fight erupted in front of the garage of the Jacobs’ home at 1100 block of North Del Sol Lane.
Members of the Modica family cried quietly after the verdict was read.
“It isn’t justice,” said Kari Martinez, Ryan Modica’s sister. “The family is very upset that it wasn’t murder. It’s almost like someone is saying we (the family) gets the life sentence.”
Jacobs' mother declined to comment.
Defense attorney Matthew Kaestner also expressed disappointment, saying he felt the Los Angeles District Attorney went overboard with the charges given the clear case of self-defense.
“I don’t think there was any chance he was going to get convicted of murder,” Kaestner said. “I don’t even think the DA ever thought that was a possibility.”
It was either going to be voluntary manslaughter or they were going to send him home, Kaestner said. The jury found that the Jacobs reasonably believed he was exercising self defense but felt the use of force was unreasonable under the circumstance, he said.
“If they follow the law, that’s how this jury got to voluntary manslaughter,” he said.
They will prepare for sentencing and will be requesting that the verdict be set aside and that a new trial be ordered, Kaestner said.
A hearing to decide on a sentencing date has been scheduled for July 20. Jacobs could be sentenced to anything from probation to 20-plus years, Kaestner said.
Meantime, Martinez and her family are preparing for sentencing. They plan to put together a victim’s impact statement.
“I’ll never be the same,” Martinez said. “This has affected me in every way.”
There were no winners in this case, said Arthur Modica, father to Martinez and Ryan Modica. Both families have been deeply impacted.
As far as the verdict, “We don’t know what goes through the mind of jurors,” Arthur Modica said.
For details on the case, please review our earlier coverage.