With jury selection underway at his second-degree murder trial, Corderrius “Pooche” Mitchell has a difficult decision to make by Tuesday morning: plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a 25-year prison term or proceed to trial and risk a mandatory lifetime behind bars if convicted as charged.
Mitchell, 24, is one of four Baton Rouge men accused of second-degree murder in the Dec. 16, 2011, shooting death of Fausto David Ortiz-Herrera, 26, on Tracy Avenue during an alleged attempted armed robbery.
Mitchell is the first of the four defendants to stand trial.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Barrios offered Monday to let Mitchell plead guilty to manslaughter in return for a 25-year sentence — 15 years shy of the maximum possible penalty for that crime — and a pledge to testify against Keandre Duane Collins, 21, at his July 18 trial.
Barrios said the offer will remain on the table until Tuesday morning, before the jury is seated.
State District Judge Mike Erwin told Mitchell he would be “real concerned” about risking a possible second-degree murder conviction and the mandatory life sentence that would come with it.
“I know what I would do if I were in your shoes,” the judge said.
Ortiz-Herrera’s body was found near his home in the 9400 block of Tracy Avenue.
While investigating the fatal shooting, deputies noticed a silver Ford Crown Victoria parked near the tree line on Sunnybrook Drive behind Tracy and pursued the car when it sped away with its headlights off until it stopped in the 3300 block of Crestaire Drive, where the occupants fled.
The deputies located Louisiana identification cards inside the car and other documents belonging to Mitchell and David Michael Betz, 23, that were left near the vehicle.
DNA found inside the car matched Betz, an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office affidavit said, and DNA discovered in the vehicle also led to the arrest of Reshaud Johnson, 32.
Johnson, Betz, Collins and Mitchell each are charged with second-degree murder. Mitchell, Betz and Johnson were indicted in 2012.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said ballistics evidence led to Collins’ indictment in 2014.
Witnesses told deputies three men wearing hooded sweatshirts might have tried to rob Ortiz-Herrera, then shot him when he tried to run away.