A jury of nine women and four men was seated Thursday afternoon to decide if the 2002 fatal beating of a Pasco woman involved deliberate cruelty and more force than necessary.
DeLonde Pleasant, 32, is back in Franklin County Superior Court for the rare proceeding.
His conviction stands in the death of his live-in girlfriend, but jurors will have the task of determining if his actions nine years ago were excessive -- and within earshot of his sleeping toddler. If the jury returns special verdicts on those factors, then Judge Cameron Mitchell will bejustified in following the prosecutor's recommendation of another lengthy prison sentence.
This all came about in early 2009 when Pleasant's 251/2-year sentence was overturned by the Washington Court of Appeals. The court said if prosecutors wanted to ask for a sentence above the standard range of 61/2 to 81/2 years in prison, they needed to get a jury to determine if the aggravating factors warranted the extra time.
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Pleasant, who is being held in the Franklin County jail, says he believes he has served enough time for killing Juanita Montelongo and should be released.
But Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny has said he believes Pleasant deserves the same sentence he received in 2003, which means another 161/2 years behind bars.
Montelongo, 20, and Pleasant had been together for at least three years and had a 2-year-old son together.
On March 3, 2002, Pleasant returned to their Eighth Avenue home in a drunken rage, got into an argument with Montelongo and proceeded to savagely beat her, pummeling and kicking the woman so hard that she was left with numerous bruises including a boot imprint.
Montelongo reportedly pleaded with Pleasant to stop the beating, saying she loved him. He quit punching Montelongo when he saw she was unresponsive and he began trying to resuscitate her.
Pleasant and family members delayed getting medical help for Montelongo. She was pronounced dead hours later at Kennewick General Hospital from multiple blows to her head.
Pleasant entered an Alford plea in January 2003 to first-degree manslaughter. He said in court documents at the time that he accepted the offer "because ofmy intoxication. I have little recall ofthe events" surrounding Montelongo's death.
The sentencing hearing is expected to go into the middle of next week. Opening statements will be given this morning by Jenny and defense attorney Karla Kane, followed by evidence and witness testimony.
The jury panel includes one alternate.