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Garcia asks ND Supreme Court to allow him to apply for parole

Attorneys for a West Fargo man – sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he was a teenager – are asking the state Supreme Court to allow him to apply for parole.

Barry Garcia was convicted in the 1995 death of Cherryl Tendeland. The West Fargo woman was killed while sitting in her car. Garcia was sentenced to life without parole. He was 16 years old at that time.

Garcia’s attorney – John Mills – told the Court the 2017 Legislature passed a measure saying a minor who is serving a long sentence could apply for parole after serving 20 years of that sentence. Mills said Garcia met that threshold Tuesday. And he told the Court the statute would cover those already in prison.

"The Legislative history is not a monolith," Mills argued. "The statute, by its plain terms, provides Mr. Garcia with an opportunity to seek redress, once he has served 20 years of his sentence. For that reason, we respectfully ask this Court to allow him to do so."

Cass County States’ Attorney Birch Burdick argued the Legislative intent was not to allow this on a retrospective basis – but rather on a prospective basis.

"If the Legislature had intended this to apply to people in Mr. Garcia's situation, it would have said so," Burdick told the Court. "It knew how to do so. It considered the question as to whether it would do so, and did not."

Garcia’s attorneys have also argued the US Supreme Court has ruled mandatory life sentences without parole for child criminals are unconstitutional. Prosecutors argue Garcia’s sentence was discretionary, not mandatory.

The high court has taken the case under advisement.

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