Trials & Litigation

Jury Acquits Lawyer's Girlfriend of Murdering Him, Convicts Her of Voluntary Manslaughter

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Charged with murder in the 2009 killing of her 36-year-old boyfriend, attorney Michael Porcella, a California woman has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement, because she used a gun.

Rennie Pratt, 29, shot Porcella as he was arriving home one night at about 11:30 p.m. in Oakland. She said it was an accident, as she was trying to unload the gun, but the government argued it was an intentional act following a number of domestic disputes, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He was outside on the porch when he was shot,” Jill Nerone, a prosecutor in the Alameda County case, tells the newspaper. “I hoped the jury would view the evidence as a premeditated murder while lying in wait.”

Although the jury didn’t believe the shooting was accidental, it found it could have been imperfect self-defense by an individual overreacting to a perceived threat when no harm actually is intended, Nerone explained.

Porcella worked as a part-time project attorney for the law offices of Robert Beles, a well-known Bay Area criminal defense firm. A graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law, he was admitted to practice in 2006.

“Every little dinner, every kind of social event or social gathering we had, we would always egg him on to sing,” a friend of Porcella’s, attorney H. Ernesto Castillo, told the Chronicle shortly after the killing. “He was just a good-hearted guy. He had a huge heart. He loved all his friends.”

Pratt is expected to get between three and 21 years when she is sentenced in June.

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