A man scheduled for trial for the fatal shooting of a Michigan teen last year has pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Sentencing is scheduled for August 1. The man faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and up to a $7,500 fine.

The man had fired a firearm at a passing SUV. The shot struck the teenage passenger of the SUV in the head, and led to the teen's death 4 days later. Local authorities may have suspected drug or gang involvement, considering that the man initially was charged with open murder. Under that charge, the jury would have been tasked with determining the degree of murder.

However, the man's lawyer insists that the case was never what it seemed. The lawyer maintains that the man had intended to fire a shot over the SUV as an act of horseplay. The lawyer characterizes the fatality as an unintended tragedy caused by "young people being stupid."

By pleading guilty to manslaughter, the man essentially agreed that the killing was unlawful but without malice (the intent to cause harm). In Michigan, there are 2 types of manslaughter charges: voluntary (in the heat of passion) or involuntary (unintentional or accidental). Both may result in sentences of up to 15 years.

Prosecutors may have agreed to the lesser charge because of difficulties with witnesses. Although the police identified 6 witnesses at the scene of the shooting, most refused to tell police what they knew. Another critical witness backed out 4 days before the man's trial was scheduled to begin, claiming that she had "lied" at her preliminary examination.

If you have been charged with manslaughter, you are facing severe consequences, including prison time, a permanent criminal record, and potential damage to your reputation, relationships and employment. You will be forced to defend against aggressive prosecutors.

Source: MLive, "Jacob Ellis pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of 17-year-old Devion Jackson of Albion," Danielle Salisbury, June 22, 2012