Tulare

A map of Tulare, where a woman was stabbed to death in 2010. Her attacker was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison Wednesday. (Google Maps / November 21, 2013)

A man convicted of murdering the mother of his children and then stabbing his attorney in the face in open court was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.

Rafael Mendoza, 30, of Watsonville, was already on parole for a domestic violence charge involving 24-year-old Juliana Bravo when in May 2010 he stabbed her in the eye and repeatedly slashed her throat with a butcher's knife in Tulare, Calif., according to prosecutors.

On the last day of his murder trial last year in Visalia, Mendoza suddenly stood up in open court and "began stabbing his defense attorney in the face, near his eye," the Tulare County district attorney's office said. He had apparently been able to smuggle in a makeshift knife made of razor blades despite being patted down and searched, local media reported at the time.

Tulare County Public Defender Michael Sheltzer told KFSN-TV that the attorney, John Shepard, required "some stitches" after the attack.

Though not all jurors were in the courtroom at the time of the stabbing, the judge declared a mistrial.

Mendoza pleaded no contest in September to murder and the additional charges of mayhem and being an inmate in possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 35 years to life for murder and 15 years to life for the other charges, prosecutors said.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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