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ND Supreme Court upholds lower court decision denying new trial for convicted killer of West Fargo woman

Steven Mottinger represents Barry Garcia during his sentencing hearing July 2, 1996, for the murder of Cherryl Tendeland. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme filed an opinion Thursday, April 11, affirming a lower court’s decision to deny a new trial for Barry Garcia, who had sought to reduce his life sentence in the 1995 killing of a West Fargo woman.

Garcia was sentenced in 1996 in Cass County District Court after a jury found him guilty of walking up to Cherryl Tendeland, who was sitting in a parked car, and fatally shooting her.

The higher court’s opinion also confirmed the district court’s decision that a new statute passed in 2017 is inapplicable to Garcia’s case.

The statute the defense argued applied to Garcia stated that people convicted as an adult for a crime they committed before they were 18 can seek a sentence reduction if: they have served at least 20 years in custody for the offense; the defendant filed a motion for a reduction in the sentence; the court determines they are not a danger to others; and the interests of justice warranted a reduction.

Garcia’s defense argued that since it has been at least 20 years since Garcia’s imprisonment and he was under the age of 18 when he committed the crime, the new statute should apply to him.

Prosecutors said the legislature intended for the new law to be applied to cases that arise after the date it was enacted in 2017 and that the law cannot apply retroactively to Garcia’s case.

Ultimately, the higher court agreed with the state and the lower court, concluding that because Garcia’s conviction was final “before the statute’s effective date, granting his request relief would require retroactive application of the statute and would constitute an infringement on the executive pardoning power.”