A 22-year-old Baton Rouge man pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the January 2011 shooting death of a man in a park near Metro Airport.
Damion Gutter was standing trial on a second-degree murder charge in the slaying of Jamar Washington, 27, and a jury had begun their deliberations when prosecutors offered the deal to Gutter’s attorneys.
Gutter’s lawyers had argued to the jury that there was no physical, corroborating evidence to back up the state’s lone eyewitness’ account.
Prosecutors said after court that, after speaking with the two alternate jurors who were excused before the 12-person jury began its private deliberations, they determined there was a realistic possibility of an acquittal.
Prosecutors said they explained the risk to the victim’s family, and they understood the dilemma.
“We’re pleased with the resolution,” Jason Chatagnier, one of Gutter’s attorneys, said afterward.
Gutter and Washington were in a part of Scotlandville Parkway Linear Park that runs under Interstate 110 when they got into an argument and Gutter shot Washington multiple times, police have said.
Manslaughter is punishable by up to 40 years in prison under Louisiana law.
A second-degree murder conviction would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
State District Judge Chip Moore presided over the trial.