This article was originally published on Goerie.com September 7, 2017 by Madeleine O’Neill.
While jurors waited to enter an Erie County courtroom for a trial Thursday, the defendant in a December 2014 fatal shooting instead went before a judge to plead guilty.
Julian R. Mickel, 27, pleaded guilty to a count of third-degree murder and agreed to serve nine to 18 years in prison as part of an agreement with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Mickel had been set to face trial for a third time on charges including homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in the Dec. 6, 2014, shooting death of 24-year-old Jaree Warren.
Two juries failed to reach verdicts in the case after trials in March and May.
Prosecutors had asked the juries to convict Mickel of first-degree murder because, they charged, Mickel laid in wait for Warren in a parking lot near West 18th and Raspberry streets while Warren was inside the nearby Last Stop Cafe.
If convicted of first-degree murder, or a premeditated killing, Mickel would have faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Instead, Mickel pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, or an unpremeditated killing with malice, before Erie County Judge John Garhart.
“You pulled the trigger yourself?” Garhart said.
“Correct,” Mickel answered.
Members of Mickel’s family and his court-appointed lawyer, Alison Scarpitti, declined to comment after the plea.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Garcia, who prosecuted the case with First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz, declined to comment after the plea. Members of Warren’s family also declined to comment.
At Mickel’s previous trials, eyewitnesses presented conflicting accounts of the shooting.
A prosecution witness — who had previously testified that she could not identify the shooter — identified Mickel as the gunman during his second trial, according to statements made in court.
The prosecution at each trial also presented testimony from a second witness, who said he was with Warren in a parking lot near the Last Stop Cafe when he heard a scuffle and saw Warren push another man away and try to run.
The witness said the other man, whom he identified as Mickel, fired a shot and then ran away. The witness testified Warren told him the person who shot him was “Juice, ” a name that has been identified in court previously as a name associated with Mickel.
The defense presented evidence at each trial from two witnesses who described a shooter who did not look like Mickel. Scarpitti also worked to raise doubts about the credibility of prosecution witnesses during her closing arguments in each trial, pointing to inconsistencies in what the witnesses had said on different occasions.
Jurors deliberated for about 8 hours in Mickel’s first trial, and for about 4½ hours in the second, before a hung jury was declared each time.
Mickel is serving a state prison sentence for having fired shots at Warren close to two weeks before the fatal shooting.