Emotions filled a Marquette courtroom Wednesday evening after a jury rendered a verdict of not guilty in the Thomas Hyttinen involuntary manslaughter trial.
It took the jury just two hours to deliberate the case, but they spent hours earlier Wednesday listening to testimony, including that of Hyttinen, who took the stand in his own defense.
Hyttinen had been charged in the beating death of Carl Mercer in April of last year.
In court, Hyttinen told the jury he was just defending himself and that it was Mercer who first attacked him.
"He pushed me and I looked up," explained Hyttinen. "He started swinging at me so I threw my arm up, and he hit me on the side of the head. I hit him, he fell down. He started getting back up, I jumped on him. He started swinging at me, I hit him again. He continued to swing at me, I hit him again. He continued to swing at me, I hit him again. He continued swinging, I hit him. He stopped, I stopped," Hyttinen said.
Over the course of several witness testimonies, including two made by law enforcement officers, the defense stitched together an argument that Mercer had a well-known history of aggression.
In closing arguments, the prosecution argued that even if Hyttinen's actions were initially in defense, they went beyond what is legally acceptable.
"He [Hyttinen], on the one hand, wants to say it was self defense, and it was to a point, but it went beyond self defense to a beating. And those were his words," said Matt Wiese, Marquette County Prosecutor.
Defense Attorney Sarah Henderson countered, telling the jury that the prosecution failed to meet the burden of proof that Hyttinen's use of force was illegal.
"There is, in this case, ample reasonable doubt that Mr. Hyttinen was the first aggressor and that he acted excessively under the circumstances. I'm asking you to consider the evidence, and at the end of the day return a verdict of not guilty to Mr. Hyttinen," said Henderson.
Over year since the fatal altercation, the jury ultimately agreed with the self defense argument, acquitting Hyttinen of all charges.