Joyce denies Bustamante appeal

Cole County Judge Pat Joyce has denied a motion by Alyssa Bustamante's lawyers appeal of her sentence in the killing of Elizabeth Olten.

According to Casenet records, Joyce said the "Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct the Judgment or Sentence" is meritless and is hereby denied."

Earlier this year, Bustamante told Joyce she decided to plead guilty two years ago - to killing Elizabeth Olten in 2009 - so she could avoid a mandatory sentence of life in prison, without any chance for parole.

But her new attorney, Gary E. Brother ton of Columbia, wanted Joyce to overturn the 2012 guilty pleas and sentences, arguing that Bustamante 's previous attorneys - Public Defenders Donald Catlett and Charles Moreland - provided the teen with ineffective counsel in advising her to plead guilty to second-degree murder rather than face trial for first-degree murder.

In an appeal filed in August 2012, Brother-ton called the advice for a guilty plea a rush to judgment, since Catlett and Moreland knew that the U.S. Supreme Court was considering cases that challenged mandatory life-without-parole sentences for teens convicted of murder.

Olten was 9 when she was killed on Oct. 21, 2009, and Bustamante was 15.

The teen was detained by juvenile authorities within two days of the murder, and was certified to stand trial as an adult within a month.

Just two hours after that certification, a Cole County grand jury indicted her on first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges.

State law says a first-degree murder conviction has only two possible punishments - death or life in prison with no chance for parole. But both Missouri law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings prevented the death penalty in Bustamante 's case, because she was too young.

Three weeks before her trial was to begin, Prosecutor Mark Richardson on Jan. 9 offered to reduce the murder charge to second-degree with a chance of parole if Bustamante , then 17, would plead guilty and let Joyce decide the sentence.

Bustamante accepted the offer and pleaded guilty the next day.

After a two-day hearing in February 2012, Joyce ordered Bustamante to serve a life sentence, with a chance for parole, for her guilty plea to the second-degree murder charge, to be followed by a 30-year sentence for the armed criminal action conviction.

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