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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No New Trial for|Teenage Murderer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A judge denied a new trial for a teenager who wrote in her diary that killing her 9-year-old neighbor was an "ahmazing" and "pretty enjoyable" experience.

Alyssa Bustamante was 15 when she killed Elizabeth Olten in 2009. She was charged with first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life with a chance of parole.

Several months after her plea, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled juveniles cannot face automatic life sentences.

Bustamante's attorney used the high court's ruling in requesting a new trial. Bustamante's new attorney, Gary Brotherton, said her defender failed to inform her of the pending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and that Bustamante would have never accepted the plea had she known that she was not facing life without parole.

But Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia S. Joyce ruled on March 6 that Bustamante did not prove she had ineffective counsel and that Bustamante was advised of the pending decision.

Joyce wrote in the 6-page ruling that Bustamante could have still received life without parole even with the Supreme Court's decision, known as the Miller opinion.

"The court finds movant waived any claim regarding the sentence provisions for murder in the first degree when she entered her plea to murder in the second degree," Joyce wrote. "The sentencing provisions for murder in the second degree are not questioned by movant. Movant claims that had she known Missouri's automatic life without parole sentencing for a juvenile on a murder in the first degree was going to get invalidated, she would not have plead[ed] guilty to murder in the second degree. Movant could still have received a life without parole sentence even with the Miller opinion. ... The defendant, if she had continued onto trial and if she had been found guilty of murder in the first degree, would now face sentencing under the Miller opinion as interpreted by the Missouri Supreme Court and could still be given a life without parole sentence after consideration of other factors."

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