Cardoza pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2013 Carson City case
Leonardo Cardoza, whose first-degree murder conviction was overturned, has pleaded guilty to second degree murder rather than face a new trial.
He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 20 years for ramming his car into Desiree Bragg, 19, smashing her body into her mother’s house in north Carson City in 2013.
He was also sentenced to 60-150 months for the deadly weapon enhancement.
But those two convictions were overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court which said a first-degree murder conviction requires a finding the killing was “willful, deliberate and premeditated.” The high court said the jury instructions in Cardoza’s case failed to define those terms which, “impermissibly conflated the concepts of deliberation and premeditation and thus blurred the distinction between first- and second-degree murder.”
District Attorney Jason Woodbury said he expects Judge James Wilson to set a sentencing date on the second-degree murder plea within a week.
Woodbury said Cardoza could receive life in prison after serving 10 years or a definite term of 25 years in prison with parole possible after 10 years.
Cardoza, 32, remains in prison because the high court let stand his conviction for attempting to kill Bragg’s boyfriend and that conviction’s deadly weapon enhancement.
Under the original first-degree murder conviction, the attempted murder conviction and the two deadly weapon enhancement sentences, Cardoza would’ve had to serve a minimum of 29 years before becoming eligible for release since Wilson made all four sentences imposed in August 2014 consecutive.
His legal team is still fighting to overturn the attempted murder conviction as well.
Attorney Allison Joffee said after Cardoza’s original sentencing he was so drunk that night he was incapable of forming the intent needed to support a first-degree murder conviction. His blood alcohol level was estimated at 0.28 percent, more than three times the legal limit.
The Supreme Court panel that overturned the conviction seemed to agree, stating “the evidence of deliberation is not overwhelming.”