Rennie Pratt

This case is similar to the last blog I published on the Jessica Riggins case in which allegations of domestic violence had been made long before the act of murder occurred. The difference here is that the defendant did not a) take off and leave the country, but also b) would not claim self defense but that an accident had occurred.  

On April 10, 2009 part time criminal defense attorney, Michael Porcella was returning home from work when he was shot dead on his porch in Oakland California.  Michael had shared a home with Rennie Pratt but my research indicates that she had already moved from the home, but that she still had things left in the house.  Rennie would claim that she went to the home, apparently believing Michael to be gone to gather the rest of her items.  There were several guns in the home but she would claim that she had seen the handgun out in the open and she felt as if she should unload the gun for her own safety.  It was then that she would claim that it accidentally fired as Michael was coming through the door.    

Rennie was taken to the police station almost immediately and detained for questioning.  When their questioning was complete Rennie was arrested and charged with 1st degree murder.  This is the charge the prosecutors ask a jury to convict her of when she went to trial in March of 2011.  

At her trial the defense showed that while no one had ever been arrested, the police had responded to the home the two shared several times for reports of domestic disputes.  The jury apparently believed that the relationship was riddled with abuse, not sure the prosecution even tried to dispute that.  They decided not to find her guilty of 1st degree murder as the prosecutor had asked but of voluntary manslaughter.  

Most believe the jury came to this decision using what is called an "imperfect defense."  What this means or implies is that the jury believed that Rennie believed that if Michael were to come home that her life could have been in danger whether it truly was or not and that she "overreacted" to the situation. This makes most people believe that the jury did believe that Michael had been abusive towards Rennie although I am unsure that there was a lot of evidence beyond some police runs.  Unlike the Jessica Riggins case there were no arrests, let alone convictions for domestic violence.  

The prosecutors argued that the defense theory that this gun accidentally went off while she was trying to unload it was basically bogus because there were several other guns in the house that were still loaded.  They stated it indicated premeditation and it was her intention to use that gun on him.  Both theories could hold water.

On June 24, 2011 Rennie Pratt was sentenced to 21 years in prison. The California Department of Corrections website is not one that gives much information beyond the fact that she is in their system and where she is housed.

There is a bit of an interesting side story to this one.  Rennie was apparently originally from Illinois and one of eight (or nine) children.  In 1995 Rennie's sister Rachel was fifteen years old and pregnant when she disappeared from their home.  Her boyfriend, and father of the child apparently, had recently been charged with having sex with a minor as he was much older than she.  She has never been found as far as I was able to tell.  Have no fear, her name has made it to my list and maybe one day I will get around to digging deeper and researching that case too.

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