Peter Garcia Jr. argued Thursday he was on medications affecting his decision-making ability when he pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter seven months ago.
In asking to withdraw his plea, Garcia testified he could barely remember anything from that day other than a pen and paper in front of him and writing his initials.
“I wasn’t sure of anything,” he told the court.
Then how, prosecutor Nicholas Lackie asked, was he able to negotiate and make a counteroffer through his attorney before accepting the plea agreement? Garcia said much of that day is “very blurry," and he didn't recall the negotiations.
Judge John S. Somers, however, said the evidence, with the exception of Garcia’s testimony, indicates Garcia understood the plea agreement and responded to all questions asked of him that day. He denied the motion to withdraw the plea.
Somers then sentenced Garcia to 11 years in prison as stipulated by the agreement.
If Somers had allowed Garcia to withdraw his plea, the defendant would have faced trial on a charge of first-degree murder and, if convicted, life in prison.
Before Somers' ruling, Garcia's attorney, Richard Jackson, questioned Garcia's former attorney about whether the defendant understood what was happening when he accepted the plea agreement on Sept. 8.
Deputy Public Defender Gloria Cannon, who represented Garcia about a year, testified his demeanor that day was much the same as it was on Thursday.
When given a list of symptoms and asked to point out which ones Garcia had the day of the plea, Cannon identified just one: memory problems. And that wasn't unusual, Cannon said, as Garcia had on prior occasions told her he had trouble remembering certain details of his case.
According to court documents, Garcia admitted killing 34-year-old Efren Ramon Estrada in October 2014 after confronting him over what he perceived as a threat a month earlier. Garcia said he believed he and his family were in danger based on a recorded message Estrada left him.
Garcia told police Estrada reached into his pants pocket as the two fought. Believing Estrada was going for a weapon, Garcia pinned him to the ground and strangled him, the documents said.
He wrapped Estrada’ s body in a blue tarp and placed it in a bin, the documents said. A person searching for recyclables discovered the body the morning of Oct. 5, 2014.
Police investigators learned sheriff’s deputies had contacted Estrada the day before and found him in the company of Garcia in the 1500 block of Wilson Road. Questioned by police, a neighbor of Garcia told detectives Garcia admitted to killing Estrada, the documents said.