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Jury deadlocks, brawl ensues Neal Putnam | Wed, Feb 16 2011 04:10 PM

After three days of deliberations, a jury on Feb. 4 acquitted a man of first and second-degree murder in the death of an intoxicated party guest who described the man's wife as "a tasty piece of meat."

Jurors deadlocked 6-6 on whether Oscar Israel Sarabia, 35, was guilty of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter in the death of Mariano Alvarez, 34.

Alvarez died from blood loss from a cut jugular vein in his neck on Oct. 14, 2007, outside a party at Sarabia's brother's home east of National City on Jouglard Street.

A mistrial was declared on the manslaughter charge by San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser after jurors told him they were "hopelessly deadlocked" and couldn't reach a verdict on the lesser charge.

Sarabia can only be retried for manslaughter and a status conference was set for March 4. He remains in the George Bailey Detention Facility on $1 million bail.

Minutes after the verdict, a small brawl took place in the downtown courthouse hallway after a woman who sat with the victim's family angrily grabbed another woman who sat with Sarabia's family members.

About 25 sheriff's deputies arrived within seconds of the incident after an alert was sounded, and they separated the two groups.

Deputies accompanied the defendant's family out of the courthouse and ordered the people with the victim's family to stay back from them. They detained a woman but later released her.

While this was going on, the jury of nine men and three women met with Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund and defense attorney William Nimmo to discuss their deliberations. Jurors then quickly left.

Nimmo argued the crime wasn't murder, but suggested it could be either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Maund had urged a guilty verdict for second-degree murder.

Jurors heard Sarabia's testimony read back to them on Feb. 3. Sarabia testified he heard Alvarez describe his wife as "a tasty piece of meat" 10 times. Laura Sarabia testified Alvarez called her "a hot woman," and added that Alvarez put his arm around her while they were seated at a table.

Laura Sarabia testified Alvarez made her uncomfortable and showed "disrespect" to her and her husband. Eight of the nine male jurors are married, but Nimmo said he didn't know if that had anything to do with their verdict. The trial began Jan. 18.

Sarabia testified he displayed a knife to scare Alvarez, after Alvarez urinated on a wall at 4 a.m. on the front lawn. Nimmo said Alvarez made a homosexual taunt before he was cut with the knife.

At death, Alvarez's blood/alcohol level was .24, which is three times the legal limit. Sarabia testified he told his relatives and others the slaying occurred by accident.

When asked by the prosecutor what he did with the knife, Sarabia said "I threw it out the car while going to my mother's house." Sarabia fled the state and lived in Mexico until Dec. 22, 2009, when he was arrested in Ensenada, and turned over to San Diego Police.

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