There are only two available penalties for first-degree murder in Florida: life in prison or death. If the accused is able to work out a plea agreement that results in a lesser sentence, that is often to their advantage, depending on their chances at trial. But in the case of a 73-year-old grandmother who was facing a murder charge for allegedly drowning her grandson, the 21 and a half year prison sentence obtained in a plea deal may effectively be a life sentence anyway.

The woman, who is from Germany, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. The felony charges arose out of the drowning death of her 5-year-old grandson in the bathtub of a Florida beach house in January 2010. She and her husband were on vacation with the child at the time. The death allegedly occurred when the woman’s husband had gone into town shopping, leaving the grandmother alone with the boy. When the grandfather returned, he found his wife coming back from the beach with her clothes soaked. According to authorities, she said she was trying to drown herself, and that she had drowned the child because she did not want him to grow up in a divorced home.

The woman’s lawyers were preparing to defend her at trial on the basis of insanity. They were planning to argue that the woman’s insanity at the time of the child’s death can be traced back to mental and physical injuries she sustained in a bombing raid in World War II.

The judge in the case encouraged the prosecution and defense attorneys to reach a deal. At the time of this writing, the woman was scheduled to make a court appearance in Apalachicola where she would formally accept the plea agreement.

An insanity defense can be very difficult to prove. Given the tragic circumstances of this case, the plea agreement may have been the best option for this woman.

Source: South Florida Times, “Tentative Plea Deal for Grandma in Florida Murder,” Bill Kaczor, Sept. 24, 2012

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