High court ruling spurs appeal by Oakdale teen killer

  • Updated: November 29, 2012 - 8:15 PM

Attorneys for an Oakdale woman sentenced to life in prison for killing her newborn baby will argue in January that a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion nullifies the indictment against her.

Nicole Beecroft was found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder and sentenced in 2008 to life in prison without parole for stabbing the infant girl 135 times and throwing her into a trash can outside her house. Beecroft, who was a 17-year-old senior at Tartan High School at the time of the birth, had hidden her pregnancy, according to court documents.

In May, a closely divided Minnesota Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Beecroft on grounds that interference from the Dakota County attorney and a medical examiner not connected with the case undermined her defense.

The motion by Christine Funk, one of two public defenders representing Beecroft, asks that her indictment be dismissed and the case be remanded to juvenile court because of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Miller vs. Alabama, in which justices determined that mandatory life prison sentences without parole for anyone younger than 18 violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishments."

Judges must take into account that children vary in "age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes" and that those differences "counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison," the court wrote.

A hearing scheduled this week in Washington County District Court to review the motion before Judge John Hoffman was postponed until Jan. 11.

A trial is scheduled for July.

KEVIN GILES

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