A 58-year-old man pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter today for fatally stabbing a man during a fight in East Oakland 33 years ago. Melvin Lane Jr. had been charged with murder for the death of 38-year-old Thomas Proctor in the 1100 block of East 17th Street in Oakland on Aug.2, 1980. But prosecutor Jason Chin said he accepted Lane’s plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter because there’s no indication the stabbing was premeditated since it occurred during a fight. Chin said the fight started after Proctor approached a group of people who were on the street and asked them to quiet down. He said Proctor got into a fight with one man who was a part of the group and then fought with Lane’s brother. Lane tried to pull Proctor off of his brother but Proctor swung at Lane so Lane stabbed Proctor once in his chest, Chin said. The case remained unsolved for more than 30 years until authorities obtained DNA evidence in recent years that connects Lane to Proctor’s death. Lane was formally charged with murder last August. Lane’s plea agreement calls for him to be sentenced to seven years in state prison. He will be formally sentenced on Nov. 12 by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta, who accepted his plea today.
Lane, who has been in custody for a year, will serve an additional three and a half years before he’s eligible for parole, Chin said. The prosecutor said Lane’s seven-year sentence is the maximum allowed under the sentencing laws that were in place when the crime was committed in 1980. Chin said Lane could have faced 13 years in state prison if he’d been convicted under current sentencing standards. Technically, Lane got six years for his manslaughter plea and an additional year for using a knife to kill Proctor. Under current standards he could have received 12 years for manslaughter plus another year for using a knife, Chin said.
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