A young Mendocino Coast man should not be re-incarcerated for manslaughter despite the discovery that legal mistakes were made that shortened his sentence, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Cindee Mayfield ruled Friday.
"I feel it's the right decision," Judge Mayfield said, noting Marcos Diaz, also known as Marcos Escareno, had served the time he was promised and had completed courses to shorten his incarceration.
Diaz, who was just 14 when he shot and killed his sister's ex-boyfriend, Enoc Cruz, was relieved by the ruling.
"I'm not going back. I feel good," he said.
Diaz, 21, was released from youth prison in late December after serving about seven years, including county jail time, for the 2007 killing on the Manchester-Point Arena Rancheria. He should have served another 645 days of the 10-year-sentence, said Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster.
Eyster learned of the mistake as Diaz was being released and filed a petition to have Diaz re-sentenced.
"We need to correct the law," Eyster told Judge Mayfield.
Diaz's time was shortened because he was mistakenly committed directly to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Because of the nature of his crime, he was ineligible for that status. He should have been committed to the adult prison system, though he still would have been housed with other juveniles until he was older.
In the adult system, convicts are required to serve at least 85 percent of their time. Juvenile commitments allow for release after as little as 50 percent of time is served, depending on credits earned.
Everyone involved in Diaz's sentencing erred, including the defense and prosecuting attorneys, a deputy state attorney general who was consulted, probation officials and the judge, Eyster said.
"This was an oversight. It was inadvertent. It was a mistake," he said.
The blunder is rare, Eyster said.
"This is a once-in-a career case for everyone involved," he said.
Diaz's attorney Katharine Elliott said it would be unfair to send him to prison when he had served the time required of him and been well-behaved while incarcerated.
Although Diaz will not get additional prison time, Mayfield did correct the sentence itself — shifting his case to the adult corrections division. But she then ruled that he had served his time.
That means his case is now in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He will now be placed on state parole, rather than probation and the killing will count as a strike should he ever re-offend.
If he violates his parole, he will be sent to prison for a year, Eyster said.
"It is what it is. We fixed it," he said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)