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Beecroft hearing postponed, again
A hearing in the trial of Nicole Beecroft, 24, of Oakdale has been postponed for the second time in two months.
The hearing was originally set for Nov. 15 after Washington County Judge John Hoffman found her guilty of second-degree murder in September. Prosecutors requested an upward departure from sentencing guidelines based on aggravating factors, including the vulnerability of the infant and that Beecroft had treated the newborn with “particular cruelty.”
Although Beecroft had waived her right to a jury trial, she still has the right for a jury to determine if the aggravating factors are evident, Washington County assistant attorney Karin McCarthy said. She may decide to waive that right, in which case Hoffman will determine if the factors were present.
“We can’t move forward until that determination [if a jury will decide whether the aggravating factors were present] is made,” McCarthy said.
However, the hearing in which Beecroft’s attorneys were to make that intention clear was rescheduled at the last minute because Beecroft’s defense attorney, Luke Stellpflug, planned to be out of town. Christine Funk, Beecroft’s lead attorney, has reportedly taken a position out-of-state and is no longer handling her case.
The hearing was rescheduled for Dec. 13, but never took place, as Stellpflug is undergoing a medical procedure and will not be available to serve as Beecroft’s defense attorney until the start of the new year.
The hearing has now been set for Feb. 14, 2014.
Second guilty verdict
The retrial marked the second time Beecroft was found guilty of murdering the baby girl she gave birth to, alone in the basement of her mother’s home in April 2007. Investigators found the infant’s body wrapped in a towel in a garbage can outside Beecroft’s home. The baby had been stabbed more than 100 times. Beecroft was 17 and a senior at Tartan High School at the time.
The first trial took place in 2008. She was tried as an adult and found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, receiving a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed that conviction last year after questions were raised as to whether medical examiners had been pressured not to testify in her defense.
The retrial began earlier this summer in Washington County district court. Beecroft waved her right to have a jury trial, opting instead for a bench trial. Hoffman issued his 55-page written verdict, which did not find evidence of premeditation, at the end of September.
Also last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for those age 17 and younger were unconstitutional, as they ran counter to protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Beecroft will be given credit for the six years she has served since she was arrested in 2007. She is incarcerated at the state correctional facility for women in Shakopee.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7822. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.