MODESTO -- A judge on Wednesday decided there were not enough mitigating circumstances to reduce a criminal charge and ordered a defendant to stand trial charged with second-degree murder after stabbing a man with a small screwdriver in Waterford.
Juan Carrizales, 28, is accused of murder in the death of 23-year-old James Mandall when the two fought Oct. 9, 2011, at the Waterford Garden Apartments on Dorsey Street.
Donnell Snipes, Carrizales' attorney, argued that Mandall and his friends were gang members. He said Carrizales defended himself with the screwdriver because he feared Mandall's gang ties.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge John Freeland said the mere fact that Mandall was a gang member was not enough to reduce the charge. He said there was no evidence presented during Carrizales' preliminary hearing that showed Mandall had been violent before that night.
One witness told an investigator that he spotted the men earlier that night in a dispute, and one of them was holding a baseball bat, according to testimony. The testimony, however, didn't indicate who was holding the bat.
If Carrizales had been attacked with a baseball bat, then that could have been enough provoke the defendant into stabbing Mandall with the screwdriver, the judge said in court. There was no other testimony that indicated one of the men had a bat during the fight.
Freeland scheduled the defendant to return to court Jan. 23 for to be arraigned.
Snipes had asked the judge to reduce Carrizales' charge to involuntary manslaughter. The defense attorney argued that Mandall "sucker-punched" his client twice before he defended himself with the screwdriver.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing revealed that the two men fought over a vehicle burglary. Carrizales' girlfriend at the time accused Mandall of stealing items from her parked vehicle, and the defendant confronted Mandall about the burglary.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said in court that Carrizales had a screwdriver, used to fix eyeglasses, with the sharp end pointing out of his fist. The prosecutor argued that Carrizales punched Mandall in his chest three times; one puncture wound to his heart proved to be fatal.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.