OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An Oakland woman who tearfully apologized for her actions was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in state prison for fatally stabbing her husband two and a half years ago.
Marissa Manning, 24, originally was charged with murder for the death of her husband, 24-year-old Jonathan Bennett, in the 2400 block of 89th Avenue on Jan. 12, 2010.
But in late April, just before her trial was scheduled to begin, Manning pleaded no contest to a lesser-included charge of involuntary manslaughter with the use of a deadly weapon.
Manning’s attorney, Joanne Kingston, said Wednesday that if the case had gone to trial she would have argued that Manning killed Bennett in self-defense because she had suffered years of physical abuse from him.
Alameda County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said her office agreed to the plea deal because there was evidence Manning suffered from “intimate partner syndrome,” which is new term for battered wife syndrome.
Kingston said Manning had called police on seven different occasions to report that Bennett had battered her but on each occasion she changed her mind and decided not to press charges against him.
Kingston said Bennett was Manning’s “true love” and they had three children together, including a baby who was born seven months after Bennett was killed, as Manning was six weeks pregnant when she fatally stabbed him.
She said that on the night Manning killed Bennett, “He was coming at her” and was pulling her hair out.
Before Manning was sentenced Wednesday, she described the incident as “a horrible tragedy” and asked Bennett’s family to “please forgive me.”
Manning said Bennett was “a wonderful person and I loved him dearly.”
Fighting back tears, Manning said, “Today, I’m asking not for sympathy but for forgiveness.”
The original prosecutor in Manning’s case, Deputy District Attorney Danielle London, was placed on administrative leave in April for violating Manning’s attorney-client privilege by ordering the secret recording in jail of a conversation between Manning and an expert hired by the defense.
Drenick said that when District Attorney Nancy O’Malley learned of the taping on April 25 she took “swift and appropriate action” by immediately removing London from the case and assigning it to another prosecutor who had no knowledge of the contents of the recorded conversation.
Alameda County’s two jails, Santa Rita in Dublin and North County in Oakland, are equipped with recording equipment that can capture conversations that inmates have on the telephone and in person during visits with family and friends.
Inmates are notified that their conversations can be recorded and prosecutors often use recorded conversations in trials as evidence against defendants.
But the jail isn’t supposed to record conversations between inmates and their attorneys or anyone representing an attorney, such as a private investigator or an expert.
Drenick said the California Attorney General’s Office is assisting the District Attorney’s Office in an internal personnel investigation of the matter.
Kingston said she thinks the secret taping “was an isolated thing and an aberration” and she doesn’t think the District Attorney’s Office normally does that kind of thing.
But she said she’s concerned that a deputy from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office went along with the secret taping and she thinks the sheriff’s office “should fess up and take responsibility for this” along with the District Attorney’s Office.
However, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said deputies aren’t attorneys and rely on the district attorney’s judgment in determining if a taping is legal and appropriate.
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