A Eureka teen can’t withdraw his plea to stabbing another boy to death at Oceanview Cemetery, Judge Christopher Wilson ruled this morning.
This morning Wilson, denying a defense motion to allow 16-year-old Christopher Craft to withdraw his admission to voluntary manslaughter, said Craft’s apparent “change of heart” is not sufficient cause. Craft pleaded guilty on July 15 to the voluntary manslaughter of 16-year-old Brandon Brocious, who was killed in August 2018.
Brocious’s mother, Cyanne Brocious, sat in the courtroom audience holding up framed photograph of her slain son. She breathed a sigh of relief when Wilson denied the motion.
Craft is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 4 and faces a maximum term of 12 years. But under California law, he can only be held until his 25th birthday in August 2027.
During the hearing today, Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees called Craft’s attorney, Christina Allbright, to testify. Rees asked Allbright whether she and Craft fully discussed the rights he was giving up by entering a plea and not going to trial.
“Yes,” she said.
“Did he understand he could be held until he’s 25 years old?”
Rees also questioned Allbright about whether anyone had threatened Craft to persuade him to plead guilty. This is a standard question to anyone who admits a crime.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Allbright said.
As to whether anyone close to Craft was threatened, Allbright said there may have been threats made, but she didn’t know whether they were related to the plea.
“I didn’t get the full details of the threats,” she testified.
Wilson, who accepted Craft’s plea on Aug. 15, said he was confident the boy had been fully advised of the consequences of admitting the stabbing. He suggested others may have pressured Craft to take back the plea.
“His mother obviously was not happy with that,” Wilson said.
At the hearing at which Craft pleaded guilty, his mother Lorna Jean Leen stormed out of the courtroom hollering “I wouldn’t do it, Chris! I wouldn’t do it!”
Leen, who was initially also implicated in the killing, was in the courtroom audience today.
In the beginning both Leen and her son were charged with murder. Teenage witness “Jane Doe” testified at Leen’s preliminary hearing that Leen held her back while Craft stabbed Brocious. Craft was Doe’s former boyfriend, and Brocious her current boyfriend.
Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis dismissed charges against Leen, noting that according to police testimony it was pitch-dark in the cemetery and Brocious was stabbed up to 90 feet away from where Doe and Leen were standing. Also, all three of the teens had been using drugs throughout the day.
Craft, if he is sentenced to the maximum 12 years, will be eligible to apply for parole in four years.
Attorney Jennifer Dixon, who was appointed to look into whether Craft had grounds to withdraw the plea, represented Craft this morning.
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