Gregory Houston didn’t want to go to trial on accusations he murdered a man in December 2009.
But 20 years in prison for pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter didn’t look much better to the 45-year-old man, even though a murder conviction would have meant a mandatory sentence of life without the chance for parole.
After wrangling with the decision Tuesday morning, Houston decided to admit to the Dec. 6, 2009, stabbing death of Rajneesh McPherson, 24. Muscogee County Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen then sentenced him to 14 years in prison, followed by 11 on probation, on charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.
“Fourteen years of my life,” Houston said after the judge sentenced him.
“You want to go to trial?” Allen asked.
Houston didn’t and the sentence stood.
The stabbing stemmed from an argument between a woman who lived with Houston at his Farwell Drive home and another woman. McPherson got involved into the dispute, and then Houston.
“There were heated words,” said Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly. “They were separated. (Houston) said he wasn’t playing with Mr. McPherson. Shortly after that, Mr. McPherson was stabbed.”
McPherson had six stab wounds, though only one was fatal, the prosecutor said.
Assistant Public Defender Stephen Craft, who represents Houston, said his client has never denied stabbing McPherson and noted that he remained at the scene until police arrived. Houston and McPherson had a history of violence, and Craft said McPherson had broken Houston’s teeth in the past.
“Mr. Houston is concerned for his safety,” Craft said. “He didn’t want to get any more teeth broken out. It was not murder, and I think the state acknowledges it was not murder.”
Houston told the judge that his conflict with McPherson was ongoing.
“They jump on me all the time,” he said. “I was just scared that day. I didn’t want to be jumped on any more.”
Because of two prior felony convictions out of Texas in the 1990s, a murder conviction would have meant no choice for the judge in sentencing. Allen would have been forced to sentence him to life in prison without the chance for parole.