Hilda Sanchez said the man who stabbed her son to death in Waterford deserves a longer prison sentence. But she told the convicted defendant in court on Monday that he can change his life for the better.
“You have a chance to change; you have a family who loves you,” the tearful Sanchez told Juan Carrizales, sitting a few feet away from her. “My heart goes out to you. You did what you thought you had to do, but it wasn’t right.”
Carrizales, 29, has pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to a seven-year prison sentence in the death of 23-year-old James Mandall, who was stabbed with a small screwdriver. Carrizales agreed to a plea deal to avoid a trial, where he would have faced a second-degree murder charge.
The two men fought Oct. 9, 2011, at the Waterford Garden Apartments on Dorsey Street, where Mandall was stabbed.
Testimony in a January 2013 preliminary hearing revealed that the two men had 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.
Carrizales was sentenced March 17, but Mandall’s family was allowed to speak in court before the judge ordered the defendant to start his prison sentence.
The defendant apologized to Mandall’s family during Monday morning’s hearing. He stood, turned and spoke directly to Mandall’s mother.
“There’s nothing I can do to bring him back,” Carrizales said to her with tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Sanchez said in court that Carrizales was pushed by someone else into stabbing her son, for a claimed burglary that never was proven to have been committed by her son.
“We’re here today because somebody decided to take the law into their own hands,” Sanchez told the judge.
Donnell Snipes, Carrizales’ attorney, argued in the preliminary hearing that his client defended himself with the screwdriver because he feared Mandall’s gang ties. The defense attorney also said Mandall “sucker-punched” his client twice before Carrizales used the screwdriver.
Sanchez admitted that her son was involved in gangs, but said the the fatal stabbing had nothing to do with gangs. “This was about a cellphone,” she said.
Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees has said in court that Carrizales had a screwdriver, used to fix eyeglasses, with the sharp end pointing out of his fist. She argued that Carrizales punched Mandall in his chest three times; one puncture wound to his heart proved fatal.
Eva Nash, Mandall’s aunt, also told the defendant that he has a chance to improve his life, a chance her nephew never will have.
“He was an individual who obviously didn’t make the right choices,” Nash said about her nephew.
Mandall’s other aunt, Yolanda Rodriguez, said her nephew was trying to get out of gangs. She and other family members said they believe that Mandall’s gang background negatively influenced the outcome of the case.
“Even though he’ll serve time, we won’t have James back,” said Julia Sanchez, Mandall’s grandmother.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Nan Jacobs told the family that she cannot lengthen Carrizales’ sentence, because she is bound by the terms of the plea agreement. “Despite the bad choices that victims make in their lives, they don’t deserve to be killed,” Jacobs said.
Carrizales has been in custody at the jail since Oct. 13, 2011. The prosecutor has said the defendant must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.