Sentencing set for 2014 Carson City murder | NevadaAppeal.com

Sentencing set for 2014 Carson City murder

Judge James Wilson on Tuesday set Leonardo Cardoza's sentencing hearing for July 27.

But before that can happen, Wilson must resolve the motion by attorney Allison Joffee to remove him from the sentencing.

Under a Nevada Supreme Court case decided years ago, the judge who takes a defendant's guilty plea must conduct the sentencing. With Wilson unavailable, it was District Judge Todd Russell who accepted Cardoza's guilty plea to second-degree murder.

"My client specifically made the express agreement that Judge Russell be the sentencing judge," she told Wilson on Tuesday.

District Attorney Jason Woodbury declined to oppose that request.

Wilson ordered Joffee to make that request in a formal written motion.

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Cardoza could receive life in prison with parole after 10 years or a definite term of 25 years with parole possible after 10.

Wilson handled the trial in which Cardoza was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2014. He was sentenced to life with parole possible after 20 years.

But the Supreme Court overturned that conviction saying first-degree murder requires a finding the killing was willful, deliberate and premeditated. The high court said the jury instruction in Cardoza's case failed to define those terms and therefore, "impermissibly conflated the concepts of deliberation and premeditation and thus blurred the distinction between first and second degree murder."

Cardoza was convicted of murdering Desiree Bragg, 19, in 2014 by ramming her with his car, smashing her body into the front of her mother's house in north Carson City. He was also convicted of attempted murder for nearly hitting Bragg's boyfriend with the vehicle.

Cardoza remains in prison because the Supreme Court didn't overturn the attempted murder conviction. Joffee is still trying to overturn the attempted murder conviction as well. She said after the original sentencing he was so drunk that night he was incapable of forming the intent needed to support a murder conviction. His blood alcohol was estimated at 0.28 percent, more than three times the legal limit. The Supreme Court opinion seemed to agree with that, stating: "the evidence of deliberation is not overwhelming."