The Montana Supreme Court has denied Markus Kaarma’s request to rehear the appeal of his homicide conviction, and his attorney said the next step will be asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the matter.
In February, the Montana Supreme Court upheld Kaarma’s 2014 deliberate homicide conviction for shooting and killing 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede, who went into Kaarma’s Grant Creek garage that April, apparently looking to steal alcohol.
Kaarma was later sentenced to 70 years in prison and won’t be eligible for parole for 20 years. In late 2015, he appealed his conviction.
His attorney Nate Holloway said he will file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court before the 90-day deadline. If the U.S. Supreme Court – which accepts very few cases – declines to hear Kaarma’s case, he still has civil options that can be used to challenge his conviction.
The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court will likely be limited to a small number of issues, Holloway said Thursday, including whether the trial should have been moved out of Missoula because of intense media coverage in the months after Dede’s death.
After the state Supreme Court ruled against Kaarma, Holloway filed a petition asking the court to rehear the appeal, saying the justices hadn’t fully considered several factors he had raised.
In denying the appeal, the Montana Supreme Court had agreed that Missoula police detective Guy Baker, who testified at trial about blood spatters in Kaarma’s garage, should have been deemed an expert witness. But the court decided that even though the testimony shouldn’t have been allowed, it likely didn’t contribute to Kaarma’s eventual conviction.
Holloway’s rehearing petition asked the court to focus on that issue. Baker was the only person who said Dede would have been crouched and backing away at the time of the fatal shot.
Holloway said that evidence would have prejudiced a jury against Kaarma by making it seem as though Dede didn’t pose a threat at the time he died.