A HUDDERSFIELD man has been acquitted of murder and manslaughter after shooting dead a man after a four-year feud.
Marcus Nathaniel Rhoden, 20, shot 23-year-old Michael Trevor Francois, of Brackenhall, outside Dreamer's Bar on Bradford Road, Fartown, early last April 21.
A jury of five women and seven men at Leeds Crown Court took just over two hours to find Rhoden, of Chalwood, Deighton, not guilty of murder and manslaughter.
They accepted his plea that he reacted in self-defence, after Francois threatened him with a sword.
A charge of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life was dropped.
But he was sentenced to three years in a young offenders' institution for a separate offence of wounding with intent, which he admitted last week.
He admitted attacking 18-year-old Sajid Vania in Ravensthorpe.
Roger Thomas QC, prosecuting, said Rhoden's car and another vehicle had blocked each other's paths.
Mr Vania, whose brother-in-law was in one, came out of his house. He allegedly hit Rhoden in the face.
Two days later, Mr Vania was with a friend when Rhoden and two friends confronted him. Mr Thomas said Rhoden attacked him with a wheelbrace and knocked him down. The other men joined in the attack.
Mr Thomas said Rhoden had previous convictions for public order offences and affray. For one affray offence he was sent to a young offenders' institution for nine months in March, 2002.
Rhoden's barrister, Stuart Lawson Rogers QC, said the attack on Mr Vania was not pre-meditated, adding: "It was coincidental that Mr Rhoden saw Mr Vania."
Mr Lawson Rogers asked the judge, Mr Justice Elias, to be lenient, saying Rhoden's future was blighted by Mr Francois' death, adding:
"It seems inevitable he will have to give up his ties in the area."
Rhoden will have the 16 months he served on remand for the trial knocked off his wounding sentence.
Armed police searched the public and Press.
After the verdict, loud mumbles were heard in the public gallery and Mr Francois's relatives walked out.
The jury heard that Rhoden and Mr Francois had been rivals since a nightclub fight four years ago.
Rhoden said Mr Francois hit him with a bottle and claimed he had attacked him several times since, including once with a baseball bat.
The most severe attack allegedly came in March, 2001, when three masked men gatecrashed a party in Marsh with guns and machetes.
Rhoden suffered a 7in cut to the right elbow and a cut between the fingers of his left hand.
One man was convicted and Mr Francois was charged, but the case was discontinued.
Rhoden said these incidents led him to buy a gun for £100 last February. He brought it out when he thought he may bump into Mr Francois - such as on April 20, when he put it in his Ford Fiesta.
That night, Mr Francois and Rhoden had been to Bar Non in St George's Square and to Centro's pizza takeaway nearby.
Early on April 21, Rhoden was driving along Northgate when a black Toyota overtook him.
The driver did a handbrake turn, leaving the Toyota broadside across the road. Rhoden's car hit the driver's door and he saw Mr Francois inside, shouting at him.
Rhoden drove off, but arranged to meet his cousin, Michael Reynolds, outside Dreamer's Bar as he had offered to resolve the argument.
The jury saw CCTV footage of the 4am meeting. Mr Francois arrived in a car and approached the passenger side of Rhoden's Fiesta.
The passenger door was open and Mr Francois thrust an oriental sword towards Rhoden in the driver's seat.
Rhoden said he was in fear of his life, so he shot Mr Francois once in the mouth.
Rhoden arranged for his car to be burned and the gun hidden. But he surrendered to police soon after.