My Last Rambo Post

I posted earlier this week about this Intoxication Manslaughter case of Ray Rambo in Fort Worth. After a jury ended up deadlocked, a plea bargain was struck for 3 1/2 years in the pen.

More details about the deal came out today in the Star Telegram. Amazingly, the prosecutors never offered a plea bargain before trial. I think that is shameful. Every victim goes into the criminal justice system expecting there to be a trial and expecting there to be a maximum punishment verdict. But that's a fantasy. It's the prosecutor's responsibility to at least advise them to other possibilities. In this case, the jury could have sentenced the defendant anywhere from 2 to 20 years in prison. BUT, they jury could also give the defendant probation.

A responsible prosecutor would go to the victim's family and say, "Look, I think a jury will send him to the pen, but I can't guarantee it nor can I guarantee for how long. And even though I represent the State and not you, I want you to have some input into the plea negotiations. I could offer the defendant, say, 12 years in prison with a deadly weapon finding. A jury might give him more, maybe not. But if he took 12 years, you won't have to go through a trial. Think about it. And think of what number you feel is reasonable. I'm not obligated to follow your wishes, but I want to know what you think." (Note: I have no idea what the prosecutor in this case said to the victims.)

Under the facts of that case, any reasonable defense lawyer would have had to seriously consider any plea bargain offer of 8 years in the pen or less. More years than that, and the decision gets tough.

I can guarantee to you that if 3 1/2 years had been offered before trial, the defense would have jumped on it. In fact, I'd be stunned if the prosecution could not have gotten more. But after a grueling and emotional trial, the victim's family just wanted to be sure the defendant would spend some time in jail. And 3 1/2 was good enough for them.

Bottom line: I believe a grueling trial could have been avoided AND a plea bargain for more than 3 1/2 years could have been obtained. Everyone gripes about plea bargains, but sometimes they work in favor of the victims.

Finally, it was interesting to note that the prosecutor said that the Defendant would have to serve at least 1/2 of his sentence (21 minutes months) before becoming eligible for parole. I respectfully disagree. Any prison sentence that has a deadly weapon finding (as did this one) requires a defendant to serve, at the minimum, two real years in prison. See Texas Government Code § 507.145 (And I'll credit Decatur lawyer Paul Belew for pointing that obscure law out to me about five years ago.)