FARGO – A judge in Cass County District court denied a motion for a new trial filed by Barry Garcia, who received a lifetime sentence for murdering a West Fargo woman when he was 16 years old.
Garcia was convicted in 1996 for killing Cherryl Tendeland in November 1995 as she sat in a parked car. He received life in prison without parole.
At the court hearing Friday, June 29, Garcia’s motion for a new trial suggested a 2017 change in North Dakota law applied to him. Under North Dakota 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.”
Garcia’s attorney, Samuel Gereszek, argued that because Garcia has been imprisoned for over 20 years the new statute applies retroactively to him. He said post-conviction procedures exist to take into account new changes, and the statute is one of them.
Judge Wade Webb ruled that Garcia’s case does not come within the scope of statute and if the statute were to be applied retrospectively to past cases, it would have to express that clearly in the writing.
Garcia sued for post-conviction relief in 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the same year that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile criminals are unconstitutional. Garcia was denied that relief in 2017.
Gereszek could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.