Judge goes easy on stabbing defendant the Daily News featured

Posted: August 28, 2012

When a judge said Monday before sentencing a defendant who stabbed a man to death that the case was "a lot closer to self-defense" than murder, it was apparent Jonathan Lowe would not get the sentence prosecutors or the victim's family wanted.

At a bench trial in May, Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner found Lowe guilty of voluntary manslaughter and a related offense in the death of Loren Manning Jr. in 2011. Lerner sentenced Lowe, 57, from 11 to 23 months in prison plus four years probation.

In March, the Daily News reported that the then-pending murder case raised questions about justifiable self-defense. Lowe, a former Marine, testified he used a knife he carried for protection in self-defense after Manning, a career criminal, tackled him and came at him with a pipe at Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Bouvier on Oct. 1, 2011. Lowe stabbed Manning in the neck, back and thigh and he died within minutes.

Lerner was not persuaded by Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor's argument that Lowe had stood over Manning as he was bleeding to death "and yelled for him to die." Naylor sought the maximum sentence of 12 1/2 to 25 years behind bars.

At one point, the judge suggested that a Daily News reporter had tried to "improperly influence" sentencing with a "carefully timed" story two weeks ago quoting a woman named Gia who hoped Lerner would be lenient with Lowe. Manning allegedly attacked Gia in May 2010, and was awaiting trial when he was killed by Lowe.

Defense attorney Samuel C. Stretton said Lowe was the victim of a robbery attempt and acted in self-defense. "He did not go out that day and decide to kill someone," Stretton said.

Lowe, of Franklinville, is eligible for parole next week after being jailed since his arrest on Oct. 3, 2011, Stretton said.

After weighing the facts of the case with Lowe's personal history - his military service, a law-abiding life except for a minor theft conviction 25 years ago and "bouts of drug dependency he fought and defeated" - Lerner concluded Lowe's offense was an "aberration" in his life.

However, Manning's family was upset by the sentence and several relatives sobbed in court when Lerner said his sentence would "not satisfy" them.

Manning's sister, Barbara Williams, had asked Lerner to impose the maximum sentence.

Williams said Manning was a "backbone" to her and her 10-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. She said she was "angry and hurt" about what had happened to her brother.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at hinkelm@phillynews.com or 215-854-2656. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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