A Virginia jury deliberated for about two hours on Dec. 11 before finding a 22-year-old man guilty of murder, abduction and participating in a street gang. The man was one of four individuals charged with the abduction and murder of a Lynchburg teen in March 2017. The man could have faced the death penalty when he was sentenced on Dec. 12, but he struck a last-minute plea agreement to avoid that fate. In return for waiving his right to appeal the verdict, the man received life sentences without the possibility of parole on the murder and abduction charges and a 10-year sentence on the gang participation charge.
During a trial that lasted for two weeks, the jury heard that the man and his three accomplices were members of the notorious MS-13 street gang. A medical examiner testified in court that the victim was stabbed 29 times and had one of his hands removed. One of the man’s co-defendants also testified. Some of the most damaging pieces of evidence against the man were text messages he sent and received on the night of the murder.
The three other men charged in connection with the crime have already been convicted. Two of the men chose to avoid a trial by entering guilty pleas. The third was found guilty by a jury. The man who was found guilty after a trial was sentenced to 55 years in prison. The two men who entered plea agreements are scheduled to be sentenced in 2020.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys would likely advise clients charged with violent crimes to think very carefully before rejecting plea offers when one of their alleged accomplices has confessed and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Attorneys could make this argument vigorously when the evidence in the case is convincing and the facts are likely to inflame the court.