Client Indicted for Murder, Accepts Plea Deal for Manslaughter
Chuck Lanehart is back in the news, as a client’s favorable plea deal changed an indictment of murder to manslaughter. The criminal defendant was sentenced to 20 years in prison, after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of his brother-n-law in 2019.
A family argument began while the criminal defendant was driving his sister, his father and brother-n-law and sister-n-law, from a bar in Lubbock. Eventually, the client’s father and brother-n-law began assaulting each other in the backseat of the pickup.
The client stopped the truck and fired a warning shot from a handgun. He further verbally warned the brother-n-law that he would be shot if he continued to assault the client’s father. The fighting continued, ending when the brother-n-law was shot in the torso. In one study, an abdominal gunshot wound had a survival rate of 88%. Unfortunately, the brother-n-law died later that day at University Medical Center, an unintended outcome of the criminal defendant.
Plea Bargaining in a Murder Case
There were several mitigating factors favorable to the defendant that led to a plea deal and admission of manslaughter. Intent is critical to proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in any criminal trial. This was not pre-meditated murder, but better described as heat of passion. A spontaneous argument that escalated out of control, led to a family torn apart by violence. The criminal defendant witnessed his father being assaulted by his brother-n-law. He fired a warning shot and gave a verbal warning to stop fighting. His goal was for the fighting to stop, not to murder his brother-n-law.
The family of the victim ultimately decided the fate of the plea deal when they accepted that it was better than going to trial. A criminal trial can easily reopen old wounds and the process would have taken more time. Due to the circumstances of this case, a trial would have required members of the family to be witnesses. In comparison, a plea deal allows for everyone to move on.
The client was required to plead guilty to manslaughter and must serve 10 years in prison or half of the total sentence before he will be eligible for parole as a result of firing a deadly weapon. The alternative was the prospect of a first-degree murder conviction, which carries a punishment of up to 99 years or life in prison.