Minnesota Supreme Court denies second appeal from Peltier in 2013 murder of Starbuck child

Amanda Peltier argued in this case that she had ineffective counsel when convicted in Pope County in the child abuse death of a 4-year-old boy in her care.

Amanda Peltier

GLENWOOD — Minnesota’s Supreme Court has rejected a second appeal by Amanda Peltier of the first-degree murder conviction against her in the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean of Starbuck in 2013.

The court released a decision on Wednesday in which it affirms a District Court ruling denying her second appeal. She is serving a life sentence with the possibility of supervised release after 30 years from the date of her May 2014 sentencing in Pope County District Court.

Peltier, 38, argued in her second appeal that her public defenders provided ineffective assistance. She argued that the attorneys did not adequately advise her of the strength of the case against her, and failed to recommend that she offer to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

The Supreme Court determined she had not been able to show a likelihood that a plea agreement would have been accepted by the state and thus rejected her appeal. “Peltier made no showing that, even if she had offered to plead guilty to second-degree murder, there was a reasonable probability that the State would have entered into a plea agreement,” the decision reads.

The court stated in its decision that her attorneys asked her whether she was willing to offer to plead guilty to second-degree murder or face the risk of an indictment for first-degree murder. “Peltier was adamant that she did not want to plead guilty to second-degree murder,” states the ruling.


Peltier instead offered to plead guilty to manslaughter. That offer was rejected by the prosecutor, Robert Plesha. The prosecutor said the state would have considered an offer of a plea to second-degree murder, but he testified that he did not know whether the state would have accepted it.

A grand jury indicted Peltier on first-degree murder, and a Pope County jury convicted her in May 2014. She had been accused of child abuse in the death of Dean. She was caring for the child as the live-in girlfriend of the boy’s father. She was caring for a blended family of six children.

The Supreme Court in February 2016 had denied a direct appeal of her conviction. The court rejected her claims that jury instructions omitted essential elements of the charged offense; that the District Court abused its discretion in allowing a state expert to testify that biting a child is a “particularly vicious” form of child abuse; and that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing arguments.

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