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Judge may ponder new trial in murder
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It took less than a week for a jury to convict Michael Roessler in the murder of 51-year-old rural Manteca Michael Lawrence. 

Now it’ll be up to a judge whether to sentence the 25-year-old to prison or to entertain a motion from his defense attorney to grant him a new trial – something that was discussed after Lawrence’s family read letters to the man responsible for his death last month.

On Monday, Feb. 2, Roessler is scheduled to appear in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton for the first time since his emotionally charged December appearance. It was there that his counsel, Vittoria Bossi, suggested that she might make a motion for a new trial – dragging out what has been an unusual murder case in that two of the three suspects were tried concurrently and only one of the two was convicted. The third suspect, 37-year-old Christopher Oliver, has a trial that is set to begin in late March. Of the three men arrested for Lawrence’s murder – 23-year-old Justin Wilson was the third – Oliver is the only one with the option for bail, which is set at more than $4.7 million. 

According to court documents, Lawrence, who lived on Williamson Road near the Weatherbee Lake housing tract behind what was once Oakwood Lake, had ridden his dirtbike-style motorcycle to the nearby Islander Tavern to buy beer and ice for a barbecue that he was having with family at his home. A group that included Roessler and others insulted Lawrence and words were exchanged but ultimately, prosecutors alleged, the matter was ended with a handshake. 

But later that night Roessler and Oliver are believed to have jumped onto a pair of motorcycles and ridden out towards Lawrence’s home – searching for him and spinning donuts when they found where he lived. A fight ensued and by the time it ended Lawrence was dead with a gunshot wound to the head and Oliver had been shot in both the abdomen and the hand. 

He was taken by car to a nearby hospital while Roessler fled at high-speed, eventually crashing into a fence off of McKinley Avenue. He ended up hospitalized as well, and both men were arrested and charged with the murder upon being discharged. 

Wilson, who was arrested that night for a weapons possession charge but was released and then rearrested by the Manteca Police Department, was ultimately acquitted of the murder charge. He was, however, convicted of the weapons charge – possession of brass knuckles. 

Oliver opted to waive his right to a speedy trial and as such will be tried separately from the other two men.