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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Slit Throat by Pima County Attorney's Office

"Tucson man given 7 years in fatal shooting

June 18, 2012 1:03 pm  

Sounds like a nasty boy who was angry about his father being replaced in the family.  Must've got what he deserved.
"Last month Lerma pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he was facing between seven and 36 years in prison."
If he was indicted on first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, why would the prosecutors offer this plea agreement to manslaughter?
"Lerma shot Castillo, a registered sex offender who was in the country illegally, because he was beating Lerma's mother in front of several children, defense attorney Sheena Chawla has said. The second man was almost shot in the process, she said."
HOLD THE PHONE!!... 18-year-old Angel Lerma sees his mother 1) being physically attacked and beaten, 2) in front of several children 3) by her alleged boyfriend, 4) a registered sex offender, 5) who is in the country illegally. 
WHY SHOULDN'T HE KILL HIM?  Visualize, reader, an image from your childhood days of your mother.  Now visualize a man beating her, striking her repeatedly.  He's a rapist or child molester, and he's not even supposed to be in this country. 
What would you do?  You cannot wait for the police to arrive, she may be dead by then.  You have to act to save your mother's life.
"Soccer coaches, a counselor and a teacher wrote letters to Pima County Superior Court Judge Teresa Godoy on Lerma’s behalf, court documents state."
"Godoy sentenced Lerma to seven years for the manslaughter and five years for the assault and ran them concurrently."

The fact that they offered Lerma a plea bargain tells me that they probably could not have gotten a conviction on even manslaughter.  Under Arizona's recently renovated self-defense statute, it's possible Lerma could have been acquitted on all charges.  Where was Ms. Chawla?  Who else advised him to take the plea?  And, of course, Lerma himself bears the ultimate responsibility for accepting the plea.  While these are all issues for those involved, it is critically important not to miss an underlying and pervasive problem.

My main complaint here is that the prosecutor in this case is a domestic violence specialist.  She has tried at least 2, and probably more cases that she has turned into murder cases, in which she trumped up the charge to first degree murder KNOWING that there was no way the evidence demonstrated any time for "reflection" on the defendant's part before shooting (the Arizona Revised Statutes definition of criteria for premeditation).

The only reason for the trumped up charges is to have a greater number of "lesser included charges", i.e., 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide.  It probably also looks more impressive on her resume.  So if the jury acquits of first degree murder, they still have to consider 2nd degree, and then manslaughter and so forth.  Can you imagine a jury having to consider 4 different levels of homicide and acquitting on all 4?  No way.  My God, we have to convict him on something!!!

Which is the response forced by this tactic.  Another conviction, another feather in her cap, maybe another award from the YWCA for best DV prosecutor.  But the Arizona Bar Association Code of Ethics states that prosecutors have a responsibility to act as "ministers of justice" by prosecuting cases even-handedly.  This prosecutor's approach to pressing cases couldn't be more sharply in contrast with her profession's ethical code.  That goes for a number of people in the Pima County Attorney's office.

There will be more on Pima County's criminal justice system soon in this blog.

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