Dakotah Eliason, a Niles teenager sentenced to life in prison, may be granted a new trial if it is found at an upcoming hearing that he had ineffective representation at his trial.

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Eliason could get new trial

Published 1:43pm Friday, December 2, 2011

Dakotah Eliason, a Niles teenager who is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of shooting his grandfather last year, may get the opportunity for a new trial.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ordered an evidentiary hearing, slated for Thursday at the South Berrien County Courthouse, to determine if his attorney Lanny Fisher provided ineffective representation. The hearing will also determine whether deliberating jurors could see Eliason’s ankle shackles during the trial that took place last August.

Eliason’s motion to remand argues that he received constitutionally-deficient representation based on Fisher not calling any expert witnesses to testify as to why Eliason didn’t show remorse for his crime, according to Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter.

Cotter said Judge Scott Schofield will preside over Thursday’s proceedings, and Assistant Berrien County Prosecutor Beth Wild will represent the people. If it is determined that Fisher’s representation was ineffective, Eliason could be granted a new trial.

Eliason, who was tried as an adult at the age of 14 at the time of his trial, was found guilty of first degree murder last August and sentenced to life in prison in October.

Before Eliason’s sentencing, Fisher filed a brief claiming that a life sentence without parole for a minor was unconstitutional and “cruel and unusual punishment.” Judge Schofield denied the motion.

Eliason, now 16, was convicted of shooting and killing his grandfather, Jesse Miles, in his Niles Township home on March 7.

Thursday’s proceedings are known as a “Ginther hearing” based on People vs. Ginther.

Fisher was not immediately available for comment.

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