Thursday, January 20th, 2011 - 7:09pm
My criminal law professor at Drake University was always fond of stating that a second degree murder conviction was basically a self defense claim that did not quite make it. This shorthand explains well the (I think correct) conclusion of the jury in the Michael Dean Stephens case: A big brawl was going on but the defendant's resort to deadly force resulting in the death of Josh Pipho was not justified under the circumstances.
But due to California penal rules and other matters Michael Dean Stephens will most likely be out of prison for a homicide in 2019. Here is why:
Stephens was sentenced to 17 years to life for the homicide and 6 years for attempted murder under a plea agreement to be served consecutively, if KHTS is correct. In the California penal system non-capital offenders generally only serve one-half of their sentences before parole for so called "good time," which effectively means that they did not shiv a guard or another inmate during their incarceration.
So this means that Stephens would most likely serve 11.5 years of the total sentence, but this must be reduced by time served since he was in custody for three years awaiting trial, so Stephens has 8.5 years to go and can look forward to release in 2019.
Certainly no fun, but Stephens will still be under 30 when released with a chance for a life, while Josh Pipho was robbed of his.