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Kidane Acquitted

Originally ran here as:
"Kidane Acquitted"
April 12, 2002

FRESNO, CALIFORNIA -- A Fresno merchant accused of murder has been acquitted. It took the jury only three and a half hours to come to a verdict.

The defendant closed his eyes and his body was physically shaking as the verdict was read. After the verdict was read, Amhare Kidane stood, faced the jury and bowed in gratitude. Then, he collapsed onto the defendant's table and wept.

Kidane was charged with the murder at his China Town convenience store near Tulare and G streets last August. Ardeen Purnell, the brother in law of Kidane's ex wife, was killed.

Police say the two had an argument days before the store shooting and that the victim had slammed Kidane into a wall during that fight.

The day of the killing, Kidane fired five shots at Purnell from across the counter in his store. His attorney says he feared for his life.

Kidane's nephew says it was a clear case of self defense, "He was in the store ... and somebody come to threaten you twice for your life ... that's the measure you take ... is to defend yourself."

Kidane's attorney says the jury didn't buy the district attorney's story that the murder was pre-planned, "I do not believe the case should have been prosecuted in the first place. I think the jury felt the same way."

Outside court, a supporter of the victim's family exploded in grief. She called Kidane the devil and warned him that one day he'd have to face a much more powerful judge and jury.

Prosecutor Dennis Peterson says it was a tough case. He says he couldn't convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting was not a case of self-defense, "We believe they had a tough decision to make here and I respect their verdict."

Had Kidane been convicted, he could have been sentenced to the next 50 years in prison. He will soon be released from custody.

A side note to this story, Kidane's wife was murdered at his store in February. The prosecutor says there is no connection between her murder and this case.

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