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Pueblo woman pleads guilty to murdering sleeping boyfriend

In serious criminal cases, people's liberties are at risk and so defendants are given the chance to defend themselves against the crimes they are accused of in a court of law. Because this process is so important, our Constitution guarantees defendants the right to an attorney when they could face prison time.

Sometimes defendants choose to plead not guilty and deny any wrong doing. Other times, defendants use a defense such as mental infirmity or self-defense in attempt to explain that their actions were justified or excusable.

Both of these options require a trial that can last anywhere from days to weeks, during which the prosecution and defense present their arguments and evidence and a jury decides who they believe.

Another option defendants have is to plead guilty and accept or offer a plea bargain. Plea bargains usually drop some of the charges against the defendant in exchange for the defendant's cooperation and admittance of the crime.

However, even after a guilty plea, judges who make sentencing decisions can still take evidence surrounding the crime into account.

For example, in one recent murder trial, a 25-year-old Colorado woman pleaded guilty to killing her common law husband, but reasoned that she had endured years of abuse and torture from the man, which led to her decision to kill him while he slept.

The woman faces 10 and 32 years in prison, and the judge will likely use her testimony and other evidence in deciding how long the sentence will be.

The 25-year-old of Pueblo, Colorado, had been charged with first-degree murder and marijuana possession following the September 2009 killing. This week, the woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the heat of passion in exchange for the dismissal of the other two charges.

The judge preliminarily accepted the plea bargain at the plea hearing. The sentencing hearing has been scheduled for the end of August.

Source: Pueblo Chieftain, "Woman admits to killing common-law husband," Jeff Tucker, 6/3/2011.

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