By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — A city man who faced life in prison if convicted in a re-trial on a first-degree murder charge, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter yesterday.
Judge John Lu sentenced Erick Rivera, 21, of 174 Osgood St., to 12 to 13 years in state prison after his guilty plea in Salem Superior Court.
Rivera also pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin and was sentenced to five years in state prison, to be served concurrently with the voluntary manslaughter sentence.
Rivera was arrested in late August 2011 and charged with the murder of Christopher Fischer, 33, of Reading. He was accused of shooting Fischer after he allegedly pulled a knife on him during a drug deal in a parking lot on South Union Street.
On Dec. 12, after a nearly two-week trial on the first-degree murder charge, the jury deadlocked in Rivera’s case. He was scheduled to go on trial again for first degree murder on April 8.
“It was a difficult decision for him. After the trial, the prosecutor (Maureen Leal) and I talked about this quite a bit. They made an offer and this is something Erick could live with,” said Rivera’s defense attorney, Edward Hayden of Lynn.
While Rivera was carrying a gun that day, “He did not go there intending to shoot anyone ... He had a defense of self defense,” Hayden said.
Rivera, Hayden said, expressed remorse for Fischer’s death. He ultimately decided not to take his chances at trial again, Hayden said.
Police said Rivera was trying to rip off Fischer when he was killed.
Fischer, at the wheel of his Honda Accord, and another man had driven to Lawrence to buy drugs from Rivera, a man they referred to as “Mexico,” according to a police report.
After Fischer bought the drugs from “Mexico,” Fischer then pulled a knife on him. “Mexico,” believed to be Rivera, was accused of getting out of the car, brandishing a gun and shooting Fischer once in the chest, police said.
After the shooting, the other man told police he and Fischer fled the scene, with Fischer still driving. But near 603 S. Union St, with Fischer showing signs of distress, the other man pulled the emergency brake and stopped the car, police said.
He pulled open the door, allowing Fischer to fall out onto the pavement. As he drove away, the man drove over Fischer’s legs.
Minutes later, Fischer was pronounced dead at Lawrence General Hospital.
His Honda Accord was found abandoned near his Reading home later that night, police said.
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