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MAN ACQUITTED OF TRYING TO GET SON TO KILL


BYLINE:    SARAH PROHASKA, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
DATE: April 15, 2005
PUBLICATION:
Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
EDITION: MARTIN-ST. LUCIE
SECTION: LOCAL

A father accused of telling his emotionally troubled 6-year-old son to "go into the kitchen, pick up a knife and kill your mother" was acquitted Thursday of a charge he solicited the boy to commit first-degree murder.

However, a jury convicted Edward Munao, 39, of Stuart, of child abuse and solicitation to commit aggravated battery. And after five hours of deliberations Thursday, jurors announced they were unable to reach a verdict on a charge of solicitation to commit second-degree murder.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said that although prosecutors believed Munao tried to get the boy to kill his mother, Munao's ex-girlfriend, the jury reached "a just verdict."

The state has no plans for a new trial on the charge of solicitation to commit second-degree murder, on which this jury was hung, he said.

"There's no need to retry this," Bakkedahl said. "This was an appropriate verdict and the judge will determine an appropriate sentence."

Munao faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, but his defense attorneys said they will ask Circuit Judge Gary Sweet for time served with probation.

Munao has been in jail awaiting trial for almost a year.

"We're pleased the jury could properly evaluate all the evidence and see there was no way my client could have been found guilty of solicitation of first-degree murder," attorney Jerome Stone said.

Prosecutors argued that Munao encouraged his son, who was diagnosed with a psychological disorder and had a history of violence toward his mother, to hit and harass her.

They played a tape his mother made of a phone call between Munao and the boy on which Munao said: "Do you need me to come over there and kill her for you?"

Munao said the words "get a knife" came out of his mouth in the heat of the moment and out of fear for his son, who he said called him up in a frenzy and crying for help after his mother told him he couldn't watch television.

For a moment, Munao said, he was afraid the boy really needed to defend himself.

He said the jury only heard bits and pieces of his conversation with the boy, and he was actually trying to calm his son down.

Munao said he disagrees with the boy's mother's belief in spanking and corporal punishment.

He told jurors he never thought the boy would actually stab her.

"I know in my brain he doesn't have the capacity to do something like that," Munao testified. "I never had any intention of him actually doing that."

Prosecutors disputed Munao's contention that he was unaware of some of the boy's violent behavior, including cursing at his mother, pulling her hair and punching her.

They also pointed out that the state Department of Children and Families found the mother was not abusive.

"He's a 6-year-old, and he was to be this man's instrument in the crime," Bakkedahl said in closing arguments.

After the trial, defense attorney Linda Capobianco still disputed that.

"There was no solicitation of murder," she said. "It just wasn't there."

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