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Jury Recommends 6.5 Years

A jury determined Thursday, July 20, that John Ludwig will serve six and a half years in the shooting death of his wife, Karen Ludwig. The jury also recommended that Ludwig be required to do community service upon his release. Additionally, John Ludwig receives a one-year credit on his sentence for time served.

While it took them less than five hours to decide John Ludwig had shot his wife in the heat of passion, finding him guilty of voluntary manslaughter, it took almost a day and a half for the jury to make a sentence recommendation to Judge John H. Chamblin.

In addition to being found guilty of manslaughter, Ludwig, who was a U.S. marshal at the time of his arrest, was found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. The gun conviction carries a mandatory three-year sentence to be served consecutively with any other sentence, bringing Ludwig's total sentence to six and a half years. The jury could have recommended a maximum sentence of 13 years for the two convictions.

John Ludwig, who is a former police officer in Howard County, Md., and was in the Army for more than six years, was charged with murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony for the shooting death of his wife of 21 months, Karen Ludwig, July 4, 2005. John Ludwig, 52, called 911 around 8:30 a.m. July 6, 2005, the day after his birthday, and admitted to the shooting.

During the trial, John Ludwig's attorney, Alexander Levay, said the shooting was self defense as Karen Ludwig had pointed the loaded gun the couple kept under a pillow at her husband during an argument the night of the incident. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Vernail said the shooting was premeditated and the five times John Ludwig shot his wife, twice in the side, twice in the heart and once in the face at close range, showed a malicious intent.

John Ludwig will come before Chamblin Nov. 2 for formal sentencing, when Chamblin will also consider the jury's recommended community service. Under Virginia law, Chamblin can only reduce the sentence recommended by jury.

DURING A HEARING Wednesday morning, July 19, before the jury began its sentencing deliberations, Levay brought forward a series of character witnesses. Both friends and family members told the jury about the positive things John Ludwig had done for them and their families.

Deputies from the county's Adult Detention Center, where John Ludwig has been held for the past year, testified about his living conditions. Ludwig has been kept in solitary confinement to protect him from the general population. Solitary confinement is typically provided for former law-enforcement officers.

"You are not judged on your worst moment; you are not judged on your best moment," Levay said. "You're judged on the whole."

Karen Ludwig's friends and family, who were present in the courtroom throughout the trial, were not allowed to testify during the presentencing hearing because of their exposure to the trial's proceedings. A motion to allow the family to give impact testimony about the affect Karen Ludwig's death had on them was denied by Chamblin.

"Unfairness would be the jury hearing from the defendant's witnesses and not the victim's witnesses," Vernail said while arguing the motion.

Karen Ludwig's friends and family were unhappy with the judge's ruling.

"Disappointed isn't the word," coworker Nancy Mcalpine said.

THROUGHOUT THE deliberations, the jury came back to the judge with several questions. Wednesday, jury members were informed that John Ludwig would get credit against his sentence for the year that he has already been incarcerated. Thursday, they were told that the sentencing guidelines they were given were for all manslaughter convictions, not just for John Ludwig's case.

The jury also wanted to know what John Ludwig's life would be like in jail. Chamblin told the jurors they were not to worry about that while they were deliberating.

Late in the day Wednesday it looked as if the jury would not be able to reach a sentencing recommendation. They sent a note to Chamblin stating they were "deadlocked at a range of years" and believed they would be "unable to overcome this impasse." Instead of calling for a mistrial, Chamblin instructed the jurors they would need to come to a unanimous decision.

If the jury had not agreed on a sentence, they would have been considered a hung jury and a mistrial would have been declared. Following a mistrial, John Ludwig would have been granted a second trial, but only for the voluntary manslaughter charge on which he was convicted.

THOSE WHO KNEW Karen Ludwig best said she was not the violent and mean person she was painted to be throughout the trial.

"She just had a beautiful, graceful presence about her," said Mcalpine, who was present for every day of the trial. "Regardless of the sentence, I think he got away with murder."

Karen Ludwig's family was not present in the courtroom when the sentencing recommendation was read because they knew the jury was not going to be in their favor, Mcalpine said.

"I am really glad I was here because her family couldn't be here; they couldn't deal with it," she said. "I was the only one here for her."