Attorneys finalize charges jury can consider in day care murder trial

November 9, 2012 4:09:49 PM PST
Attorneys Friday finalized the charges the jury can consider in the murder trial of a former day care owner accused in a deadly fire that killed four toddlers.

Jessica Tata could spend as little as six months behind bars if convicted on a lesser charge. First, felony murder which carries a sentence of 5-years to life. If she's convicted of abandoning a child as a second degree felony, she could get anywhere from two to 20 years. But if she's found guilty of abandoning a child as a state jail felony, the possible sentence drops to six months to two years.

The difference is that the second degree charge implies she abandoned a child in a dangerous situation. She could also be convicted of reckless injury to a child and endangering a child, which also carry a sentence of six months to two years. Tata will also be eligible for probation.

"It gives the prosecution more options to get a conviction. It's like shooting a shotgun with bird shot as opposed to a single shot," said defense attorney Mike DeGuerin.

Prosecutors have accused Tata of leaving a pot of oil on a hot stove while she left seven children alone to go shopping. When she came home, the day care was on fire. Four children died, and the three others were injured.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday. The judge has already said jurors will not be allowed to go home until they reach a verdict.


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