A Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced a Phoenix man to 13 years in prison for manslaughter after he admitted to chasing a man off his mother's property and stabbing him to death.
Darius Moore, 27, pled guilty on May 5 for the manslaughter of Fredrick Morris after a nine-day trial ended in a mistrial.
Based on the plea agreement, he was facing 10 to 21 years in prison.
On Friday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Cunanan ordered Moore to 13 years in prison.
On May 15, 2021, Moore was sleeping in his car, which was parked on his mother’s driveway. According to court documents, he and his sister had an argument, and he was not allowed inside.
Moore woke up to Morris knocking on his car door window. According to court records, Moore told Morris to leave him alone and told him to leave.
Moore was anxious because he had heard gunshots not long before Morris came up to him, and he had experienced being shot before, according to Moore's attorney Kyle Green.
Morris didn’t leave, and Moore got into a fight with Morris. At some point during the struggle, Moore pulled out a long knife and stabbed Morris more than 20 times.
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Morris, according to the autopsy report, had been under the influence of drugs when he approached Moore.
Morris tried to escape, but Moore chased him and killed him on a lawn across the street from Moore’s car.
The state initially charged Moore with second-degree murder, which, under state law, means that Moore intended to kill Morris because he chased him. But during the trial, Green argued the murder was sudden and reckless, which better qualified it as manslaughter instead.
Though the case went to trial, it was declared a mistrial because a few jurors were caught talking about the case outside of court, something jurors are not allowed to do because it could lead to outside sources influencing their ruling.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office offered Moore a plea deal and the case never went back to court.
The sentencing became the venue for the closing arguments prosecutors and defense lawyers were denied at trial, because of the misconduct of the jurors.
Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Gregory Bizzozero argued that Moore should be put away for the maximum allowed: 21 years. He claimed that Moore tried to hide a murder weapon when he placed the knife behind the gate of his mother’s home, that the murder was excessively violent and painful, and that Moore would be a danger to others.
Moore’s attorney, Green, told the judge that on the night of the murder, Moore was not looking to get into a fight or out to hurt anyone. Rather, he was "minding his own business" in his car when Mr. Morris walked up to Moore and continued to bother him after Moore told him to leave. He also told the court that Moore was not trying to hide the knife, explaining that as soon as police arrived, Moore told them where the knife was.
Moore’s mother was the only person not directly involved with the case to speak during sentencing.
She told the judge that the weight of what her son had done weighed heavily on her and that she grieved both Morris’s death and the pain it caused his family. She explained to the judge that this murder had been provoked and that if given the chance, she would get her son the help needed.
“I ask that you have some leniency towards my son, and I will do whatever it takes to make this right with this right with my son,” she said.
The judge ultimately decided that Moore should serve 13 years in prison with 756 days of credit from the time Moore had already served in jail.
He took into account that this was Moore's only issue with the law. He also acknowledged that while Moore didn’t start the fight, he did chase Morris and stab him an excessive amount of times.
“If you had retreated that point or done nothing, we would have been in a very different story in terms of your sentencing in terms of culpability,” he told Moore.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Man pleads guilty, sentenced to 13 years for 2021 Avondale killing