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ND Supreme Court affirms Barry Garcia's life sentence without parole

Steven Mottinger represents Barry Garcia during his sentencing hearing July 2, 1996, for the murder of Cherryl Tendeland. Forum file photo.

BISMARCK—The North Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence without parole given to Barry Garcia, the man convicted of murdering a West Fargo woman when he was 16 years old.

Approximately 21 years ago, Garcia was sentenced to life without parole for shooting and killing Cherryl Tendeland as she sat in a parked car

Earlier this year, a Cass County District Court judge summarily dismissed Garcia's application for post-conviction relief.

Subsequently, Garcia's attorneys argued on appeal that the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and the court should lift the restriction on parole or send the case back to a lower court for proceedings consistent with a state law enacted this year or for resentencing.

Under House Bill 1195, people who were convicted as an adult for a crime they committed before they were 18 years old could seek a sentence reduction if they have served at least 20 years, if the court determines they are not a danger to others and "the interests of justice warrant a sentence reduction." The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and became effective Aug. 1.

Prosecutors argued the new law doesn't apply to Garcia's case.

In upholding Garcia's sentence, the state Supreme Court said the sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Garcia's application.

The court said the change in North Dakota law came after Garcia's petition for post-conviction relief and the court said issues that were not raised before the district court would not be considered on appeal.

"Although the parties have fully briefed to us the issue of whether this new statute applies retroactively to Garcia's final conviction, we leave for the district court to determine in the first instance whether Garcia comes within its scope," the state Supreme Court said in its ruling affirming the life sentence without parole.