Angelo Pat Russo walked out of court a free man after a magistrate ruled there was insufficient evidence for a murder trial.
Instead he will face court for the lesser charge of manslaughter following a shooting at Tatura in February, which saw David Calandro later die from his injuries.
Magistrate Daniel Muling made his decision after the three day committal hearing at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court.
The statement taken by Victoria Police ballistics expert leading senior constable Alan Pringle proved key to Mr Russo’s defence.
The accused claimed throughout the investigation that he slipped on an eggplant while holding a shotgun, causing it to accidentally fire at Mr Calandro.
The magistrate quoted from Sen Const Pringle’s statement, which found that faults in the weapon meant it could fire accidentally, backing up Mr Russo’s version of events.
Earlier in the week, the court heard from Mr Calandro’s two sons, with the eldest giving evidence that Mr Russo appeared to aiming the gun at his dad.
Magistrate Muling said he did not think a reasonable jury could convict Mr Russo of murder given the evidence.
Separate manslaughter charges were laid in the afternoon.
A bail application was approved, and Mr Russo walked free at about 5.20pm today after spending most of the year in custody.
He will next face the Supreme Court of Victoria on December 7 for a directions hearing.
NOTE: Due to a court error, an earlier version of this story was pulled down.
Full story in tomorrow's Shepparton News