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Deal in killing imminent

Prosecutors and the attorney for manslaughter defendant Erik Low on Monday acknowledged they are negotiating a deal that could avoid a third trial in the 2003 shooting death of Michael Hirschey.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled on Monday. It was cancelled, however, and the two sides said afterward they are close to an agreement. Summit County Attorney David Brickey and Ken Brown, who is Low’s attorney, refused to provide details about the negotiations.

Another court date is scheduled on Dec. 1. Brown said he expects Low will enter a plea then. It is unclear if the plea will be to the manslaughter charge. Low’s appearance is set at 1:30 p.m. at Third District Court at Silver Summit.

"If all goes according to plan, we’ll finalize that next week," Brown said, describing that he and Brickey have "seriously been in discussions" since early November, when he returned as Low’s attorney after a brief period when Low had been appointed a public defender.

Low has stood trial twice in the case. The jury in the first trial could not reach a verdict, forcing a second trial. In the second one, the jury convicted Low of manslaughter. The conviction was overturned on appeal, with the state Supreme Court ruling the jury was given erroneous instructions. The two sides were preparing for the preliminary hearing in anticipation of a third trial when the negotiations on an agreement started.

Low, 40, shot Hirschey twice in a Kearns Boulevard apartment on May 8, 2003 after a night of partying and roughhousing. Prosecutors claim Low intentionally killed Hirschey, but Low’s side contends he was defending himself when he fired. Hirschey was 38 years old. Low shot him in the left shoulder and the right side of the head.

Brown said he wants Low released from prison as a part of an agreement with Brickey. Low has been incarcerated most of the time since killing. He is currently being held at the Summit County Jail on $250,000 bail.

"I want to get Erik out. That’s a major component of it. I’m hoping we’re close," Brown said.

A manslaughter conviction carries a potential prison sentence of between 1 and 16 years.

Brickey said he plans to discuss the deal with the Hirschey family and other prosecutors in Utah. He said he planned regular talks with Brown as well. Brickey said he anticipates some members of the Hirschey family will support an agreement, but others will not.

"I dare not say," Brickey said when asked about his expectation of the Hirschey family’s reaction.

The discussions about an agreement were acknowledged as Low’s Monday preliminary hearing was scheduled to start. Brickey last week indicated he was confident Judge Bruce Lubeck would bind Low over for trial after the preliminary hearing.

Low has served approximately 5 1/2 years in prison. Brickey said he is uncertain whether the 5 1/2 years are enough for Low.

"Is that an appropriate amount of time," Brickey said.


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