PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A woman serving a 50-year prison sentence for the fatal beating of a 4-year-old girl is seeking a review in hopes of reducing her prison term.
Shawna Gatto contends poor communication with her defense attorney resulted in her not fully understanding all her legal options and the evidence against her in a case that caused outrage and led to changes in the state’s child welfare system, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Had she known her options, Gatto would have pleaded no contest, presumably resulting in a lighter sentence, her attorney said.
Superior Court Justice William Stokes, who presided over the trial, held a virtual hearing Tuesday on the motion.
Gatto was convicted of depraved indifference murder in the death of Kendall Chick in December 2017 in Wiscasset.
The medical examiner testified that the girl was covered in bruises and that the injuries had been inflicted over a period of time. Gatto never sought medical help for the child’s injuries.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction and sentence, concluding the child’s abuse was tantamount to torture.
Gatto’s new attorney is asking Stokes to allow her to change her plea from not guilty to no contest, which would mean she accepts that the evidence was sufficient to convict her while not admitting guilt.
“Presumably her sentence would be less than 50 years,” said Dylan Boyd, her court-appointed attorney.
The minimum sentence for murder is 25 years. The maximum is life in prison. Maine has no death penalty.
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