15 year old Lakeland, Florida girl, Cassidy Goodson avoided life imprisonment and a first degree murder charge this week by accepting a reduced plea offer of manslaughter. In accepting the plea offer Goodson will face a sentence of at least 18 months in a juvenile state facility. Goodson was arrested in September after giving birth to a 9.5 pound baby boy. Apparently Goodson’s parents knew nothing of the pregnancy and Goodson was able to have the child in a bathroom of her parents’ home. Upon giving birth Goodson told police that she then strangled her son and put him in a shoebox to further conceal the incident. Ultimately Goodson’s mother found the deceased infant in some laundry and called local authorities.
When questioned by police Goodson described the scene in that she turned on the bathroom water to cover any noise of the birth and delivered the infant into a toilet, checked for a pulse, and ultimately proceeded to asphyxiate the child. An autopsy performed on the infant confirmed the cause of death.
Originally when Cassidy Goodson was arrested there was an intent, at least facially, by the Polk County State Attorney’s Office to charge her with first degree murder as an adult, while seeking life imprisonment. This in fact was the case up and until Goodson’s criminal defense attorney was able to negotiate a plea deal reducing the charge to manslaughter and allowing her child client to serve a sentence as a minor. Though manslaughter is an extremely serious charge, this is a very good deal for Goodson and both the prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer should be commended for their hard work.
Had Cassidy Goodson been charged as an adult with first degree murder under Florida Statute 782.04, she could have faced life in an adult prison. In earning a conviction for first degree murder the State Attorney would be burdened with proving there was premeditation by Goodson to kill her child. For argument’s sake, I believe this would have been very difficult to do if for no other reason but because of her age and the situation. On its face, this scenario wreaks of desperation and panic, two things that in my view would exclude a logical finding of premeditation.
Manslaughter, on other hand is codified under Florida Statute 782.07 and is the killing of another without justification. A simple manslaughter charge is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in the Florida Department of Corrections and a $10,000 fine. Under the unique terms of Cassidy Goodson’s plea, she will avoid an adult prison facility and will serve her minimum 18 month sentence in a juvenile detention facility.
Across the board this event is tragic. Everyone has their opinion on this case on all levels and to that they are certainly entitled. Cassidy Goodson has a real opportunity to recover from this, assuming she behaves in the detention center. If not, she could face the full 15 years in prison. My hat is off to the prosecutor on this case and Cassidy Goodson’s criminal lawyer for a job well done in working out a deal that both sides could live with.
Jason Mayberry is a Federal and State criminal lawyer and medical malpractice lawyer with offices in Tampa and Clearwater. If you are in need of a Tampa criminal attorney, contact our office at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.