When reading a news release in a legal newspaper, I was prompted to report this in these forums as being an example of how a case might be judged in view of special circumstances where the result could have been two sentences amounting to perhaps fifty years of jail time.
The law does recognize extenuating circumstances, but one must never rely on this as a typical outcome.
A Springfield man who said he acted in self-defense has been sentenced to four to six years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the stabbing deaths of two teenagers.
Judge Tina S. Page said at the recent sentencing in Hampden Superior Court that she had received 63 letters of support and requests for leniency for William Spriggs Jr.
She also pointed out that Spriggs, 23, who worked as a truck maintenance depot, had no prior criminal record. Spriggs told police that he had followed three men he believed were breaking into his girlfriends car into a parking lot when the May 2000 fight ensued.
Relatives of the victims, Ivan Pena and Michael Nieves, both 18, said they were outraged at the sentence and believed ti was because Pena and Nieves had been members of the Latin Kings street gang. “What was done today is not justice at all”, said Ivan Serrano, 31 of Springfield, a brother of Pena.
However prosecutor Carmen W. Picknally, Jr. told the judge in recommending a 12 to 14 year prison sentence that the victims’ gang background should not be a factor.
“These men were human beings; they had people who loved then…and their lives were unlawfully taken,” Picknally said,
The surviving man, Steven Eggleston, 23 of West Springfield, denied the three broke into the car, Picknally said.
Page had allowed Spriggs to remain free on $50,000 bail and electronic monitoring while awaiting trial. He was allowed to live at home, marry his girlfriend and work-part-time at the church.
Further facts concerning the case were not reported in this release.
His plea was probably the result of his inability to establish a prima facie self-defense plea, which is necessary under Massachusetts law to enable the judge to instruct the jury on the law of self-defense.
Spriggs would have had to have enough evidence, which if believed by a jury, would exonerate him.
Spriggs’ guilty plea of Manslaughter before a single judge may have been the result of his inability to establish the burden, and with the hope of a more lenient sentence.
You could take this type of case into different jurisdictions and states and gotten varying sentences.
What do you, as readers think?
"The Goddess of Justice is Blind"