Woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in St. Johns County stabbing

A woman initially charged with second-degree murder for stabbing a homeless man to death in St. Johns County has reached a deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Brenda Muniz pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the 2012 death, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Aggravated manslaughter is still a serious felony, but the plea deal that Muniz agreed to has a sentencing range of between nine years and 30 years in prison for this St. Johns County Manslaughter Case, the newspaper reported. Second-degree murder had a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison so, essentially, the plea deal opens up to the possibility for a sentence in the range of nine to 20 years in prison that would not have been on the table had she pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of a St. Johns County Murder Charge.

Both Muniz and the victim were homeless and the stabbing occurred at a homeless camp behind a shopping center where people often congregated, drank and slept, the newspaper reported. Muniz and the victim apparently got into an argument, which escalated to the point where Muniz stabbed and killed the man, whom police said was her boyfriend, the newspaper reported. Muniz’ plea agreement touches on two important issues in St. Johns County Felony Cases. First, she pleaded no contest, instead of pleading guilty to the charges. Functionally, the two are the same. The difference is, Muniz is not admitting guilt, but is essentially saying it is in her best interest to stop fighting the charges and take a deal, rather than push the case to trial and risk even more time in prison. That often is a plea that is insisted upon by the defendant in a St. Johns County Manslaughter Case. But it can backfire when it comes to sentencing. In many St. Johns County Criminal Defense Cases, the judge wants the defendant to show remorse, admit his or her mistake and take ownership of it. When that doesn’t happen, as in the case of a no contest plea, a judge may be less inclined to give the defendant a more lenient sentence.

The other interesting element is that the two sides at least agreed to a sentencing range to present to the judge in this St. Johns County Manslaughter case. That range does not bind the judge in any legal way, but in most instances the judge will honor a range that prosecutors and the St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorneys agree on. The range is the case is 21 years, so it’s likely the judge will find plenty of latitude in the range to deliver what he or she decides is an appropriate sentence in this St. Johns County Manslaughter Case.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.