Guilty plea entered in 2003 killing
Erik Low pleaded guilty on Monday to a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of Michael Hirschey, a turnabout in a case that appears to be nearing an end 5 1/2 years after the killing.
The guilty plea, which Low entered before Judge Bruce Lubeck in 3rd District Court at Silver Summit, comes after a round of negotiations between Summit County Attorney David Brickey, who prosecuted Low, and Low’s attorney, Ken Brown.
The two sides struck a plea bargain in late November that called for the guilty plea in exchange for the prosecution agreeing that Low should be released from prison for time served. He has been imprisoned most of the time since the May 8, 2003 shooting.
Lubeck will consider the deal between Brickey and Low’s attorney, but he is not required to follow their wishes that Low be released. Lubeck scheduled the sentencing for Jan. 12.
Before then, the judge will receive a report in anticipation of the sentencing detailing Low’s behavior while he has been imprisoned. Sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of between 1 and 15 years, with another 1 to 5 years added since a weapon was used. He could be fined $18,500.
Lubeck cautioned Low he might not approve an agreement like the one Brickey and Brown struck if he finds that others who have been convicted of manslaughter were imprisoned longer than Low. If he refuses to approve the agreement, Lubeck said, Low may rescind his guilty plea.
In that scenario, Lubeck indicated he would schedule a preliminary hearing. After a preliminary hearing, the judge decides if there is enough evidence for a defendant to be bound over for trial.
Low has been tried twice in the killing, with the first jury deadlocking on a murder charge, resulting in a mistrial. The second jury convicted him of manslaughter. The conviction was later overturned on appeal to the state Supreme Court, which found the second jury was given faulty instructions.
Low, 40, is being held at the Summit County Jail. He appeared in court on Monday shackled and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with the words Summit County Jail on the back.
Low urged Lubeck to consider his sentence against the backdrop of the two trials and his successful appeal to the state Supreme Court. Low said the case is unique.
"Take a look at my case, individually. I believe it’s an exception," Low said, adding it would take him hours to describe the subtleties.
Low shot Hirschey twice, once in the torso and once in the head, in a Kearns Boulevard apartment after a night of partying and horseplay. Low has maintained since the shooting that he was acting in self-defense. Prosecutors, though, claimed he was intent on killing Hirschey when he fired the second shot.
Outside the courtroom, Brown, who is representing Low on a pro bono basis, said Low’s time in prison since the shooting is sufficient.
"The goal here is to get him out of jail," Brown said, adding, "He’s done long enough."
Brickey, also speaking outside the courtroom, said the agreement is a "fair resolution." He said the Hirschey family has suffered through two trials.
"This community can now heal," Brickey said. "Erik has taken responsibility."
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