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Man convicted of rare killing in Vermont capital appeals

October 1, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A man found guilty of what police say was the first murder in Montpelier, Vermont, in almost a century is appealing his conviction to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Jayveon Caballero was found guilty by a jury in November 2019 of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Markus Austin, 33, in January 2017.

At the time, police said it was the first murder in Montpelier since the 1920s.

Caballero is now serving a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Because Caballero was sentenced to up to life in prison, the conviction was automatically appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.

The Times Argus reports that in his appeal, Caballero’s attorney Dawn Seibert said the trial court judge didn’t allow the jury to hear about a call Caballero made to a family member hours after the shooting.

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She also argues the jury saw graphic photos of Austin they weren’t supposed to see and the state failed to provide prove that Caballero knew the shot he fired could fatally strike Austin.

“The court skewed the trial toward the prosecution by making critical evidentiary errors in both directions — preventing admissible defense evidence from going to the jury and at the same time permitting the prosecution to show to the jury photos that had been excluded,” the appeal said. “The aggregate impact of these errors was to deny Mr. Caballero a fair trial.”

Prosecutors have until Oct. 15 to respond. After all the filings have been made a hearing will be scheduled.

Police have said Caballero and Austin were involved in an altercation outside a bar in the nearby city of Barre, and Caballero later confronted Austin outside his apartment and shot him.

During the trial, defense attorney Daniel Sedon argued that the killing was accidental, saying the bullet fired by Caballero ricocheted off Austin’s car windshield and hit him as he was standing near the vehicle.

After the shooting Caballero fled to Florida. He was captured in May 2017 and later returned to Vermont for trial.

Montpelier has about 7,500 residents and is the nation’s smallest capital city. The last known murder, in the 1920s, was when a woman shot her husband.