A man who admitted in court to shooting his girlfriend in the head will get a new trial next week.
Brian Pinkas, 50, pleaded guilty in 2005 to first-degree murder in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend, Sharon L. Reynolds, 37.
His plea bargain included a sentence of 20 years in prison.
At his sentencing, the prosecution alleged that Pinkas and Reynolds had been out with friends on Valentine's Day. After returning to their home in Granite City, he fell asleep and she went back out for a while.
When she returned, they got into an argument and Pinkas grabbed a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun intending "to scare her," according to court documents.
The gun went off, and Reynolds was shot in the head, killing her. The prosecution said Pinkas then called 911 and said, "I just shot my girlfriend. I didn't know the gun was loaded."
At the time of his plea, Pinkas agreed that the statement was true, according to the appeal documents.
But a year later, Pinkas filed an appeal alleging ineffective counsel, that he confessed to the crime while under the influence of alcohol and pleaded guilty while under the influence of psychotropic medication.
He also alleged that his plea included a legally invalid sentence. While the minimum sentence for first-degree murder is 20 to 60 years, use of a firearm adds another 25 years.
Therefore, Pinkas' minimum sentence should have been 45 years, and thus his plea bargain is invalid and his plea should be withdrawn, his attorneys argued.
The state appeals court has upheld this provision, that the court should have insisted upon the 45-year sentence even though it was not requested by prosecutors.
The appeal was granted, setting aside his plea and the sentence. Pinkas returns to trial next week in Madison County. Jury selection is expected to begin Monday.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.