A 53-year-old South Carolina woman was sentenced to spend 25 years in prison on Jan. 16 after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The woman originally faced a raft of charges including homicide for poisoning her husband in July 2018. The judge who handed down the sentence said that he took the victim’s suffering into consideration. The man was poisoned with eye drops over a period of three days.
The woman was taken into custody by the York County Sheriff’s Office about a month after medical examiners discovered unusually high levels of tetrahydrozoline during the victim’s autopsy. The substance is a decongestant used to relieve eye inflammation and is found in many over-the-counter pharmaceutical products. Deputies say she admitted administering eye drops without her husband’s knowledge or consent, but she claimed that she only wanted to make him ill and did not intend to kill him.
The woman repeated that claim during her sentencing hearing, and she also told the judge that her husband’s death had prompted her to attempt suicide. Her attorney also pointed out that she was a basically decent person who has worked as a nurse for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, suffered abuse as a child, and developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a man attempted to rape her on a military base. The judge also heard that she shot her husband with a crossbow in 2016 after an argument.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may bring mitigating factors such as childhood trauma, emotional difficulties and domestic abuse to the attention of the court when their clients face long custodial sentences for committing violent crimes. Attorneys may also make these arguments to prosecutors during plea negotiations. When presented with compelling mitigating factors, prosecutors may weigh the risks of arguing the facts before a jury and choose to take a more lenient position.