A difficult domestic violence case involving a mother who fatally stabbed her husband in front of their children has ended with a 32-year jail sentence. The case involved numerous details that bear explanation, from aggravating factors in domestic violence situations to the difficulty of retracting a plea deal.
Back in February 2017, a husband and wife with two children were having marital problems. They had separated and a dispute had arisen concerning child custody. When the wife heard that her estranged husband had been awarded child custody, she attacked him with a knife in the driveway, stabbing him multiple times as their children watched.
He was brought to the hospital but died from his injuries. She was charged with murder.
She pleaded guilty in August 2018 but tried taking her plea back two months later by claiming she had not taken her psychiatric medication on the day she entered the plea deal. The judge refused to rescind the plea after deciding there was no evidence to support her claims, and sentenced her to 32 years in jail.
One of the driving forces behind the lengthy sentence in the plea deal – many guilty pleas drastically cut the jail time, while this one was still significantly over the minimum sentence of 25 years – was the fact that the murder happened in front of the couple’s children.
Courts in Maine frown heavily when domestic violence disputes like this one spill over and affect the lives of the couple’s children. When judges have discretion, they will often use it to hand down heavier penalties on an aggressor.
It’s no secret that the criminal justice system in America relies on criminal defendants taking plea deals. If every defendant decided to take their case to trial, the system would get so backlogged that it would take years to give everyone their day in court.
When someone enters a plea deal, then, courts will only rescind it if there are serious problems with the plea, like if it was not actually entered into voluntarily.
In this case, the wife claimed that she had not taken her anti-psychiatric medication when she made the plea. However, it does not appear that she was able to substantiate that claim. Because the burden was on her to support her argument, the court dismissed it out of hand when she failed to present any evidence to support her claim.
Even if she could have shown that she hadn’t taken her pills, though, there is still a solid probability that the court would not have been convinced to retract the plea arrangement.
The criminal defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group represent people who have been accused of committing a crime against someone in their family or household. These offenses are crimes of domestic violence and carry additional, significant penalties for people who have been convicted. Call Maine Criminal Defense Group at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online if you have been arrested in Portland, Saco, Biddeford, or elsewhere in southern Maine.
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