A 29-year-old defendant has pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to a seven-year prison sentence in the stabbing of a man with a small screwdriver in Waterford.
Juan Carrizales agreed to the plea deal to avoid a trial, where he would have faced a second-degree murder charge in the death of 23-year-old James Mandall. The two men fought Oct. 9, 2011, at the Waterford Garden Apartments on Dorsey Street, where Mandall was stabbed.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, who prosecuted the case, said the charge of voluntary manslaughter is a serious and violent felony, so the defendant must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.
In a January 2013 preliminary hearing, 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 Superior Court Judge John Freeland said in the preliminary hearing that the mere fact Mandall was a gang member was not enough to reduce Carrizales’ charge to involuntary manslaughter. He said in court there was no evidence presented during the hearing that showed Mandall had been violent before that night.
Carrizales is scheduled to return to court June 2, when Mandall’s family will have an opportunity to give a victim impact statement in court before the judge formally sentences Carrizales.
One witness told an investigator that he spotted the men earlier that night in a dispute, and that one of them was holding a baseball bat, according to preliminary hearing testimony. The testimony, however, didn’t indicate who was holding the bat.
There was no other testimony that indicated one of the men had a bat during the fight.
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, according to the testimony.
The defense attorney has argued that Mandall “sucker-punched” his client twice before he defended himself with the screwdriver.
The prosecutor said in court that Carrizales had a screwdriver, used to fix eyeglasses, with the sharp end pointing out of his fist. Rees argued that Carrizales punched Mandall in his chest three times; one puncture wound to his heart proved fatal.