Campbell County (WVLT) -- He avoided a trial, but up until nine days ago, a widow, her sons, and Campbell County were assured that a teenager would spend much of his life behind bars for killing his assistant principal, and wounding two other high school administrators.
Now, 15-year-old Kenneth Bartley Jr., wants to go back on his deal, and he has hired a new lawyer to make his case.
"We did the right thing," said Jo Bruce. "We feel this will help our community start to heal."
Barely a month after Ken Bruce's widow says she could live with a deal that could give his killer a life outside of prison,
a new lawyer insists Kenny Bartley's better off, taking his chances.
"The plea by Kenny was not knowingly and voluntarily given, which it has to be." says Bruce Poston, Barley's new lawyer.
Had Bartley's case gone to trial, and a jury convicted him of first degree murder, he could have gotten life in prison and no parole for 51 years.
Pleading guilty, to second degree murder and two counts of attempted second got him 45 years, but a chance of parole in only 25.
"His parents had absolutely no input and were shocked when the plea was done and announced," Poston said. "From what I understand, they had turned down a similar deal a week before."
Poston says he'll argue Bartley's former lawyer put him under such pressure the day before trial that a 15 year old couldn't understand that he would likely not be free until he was in his sixties.
"I don't think the state will prove premeditated murder, not on the facts as I know them," Poston said. "It's another McLean case."
As in Eric McLean, the man accused of killing his wife's teenage boyfriend. The same man only facing charges of second degree murder despite admitting to the crime on the Today Show.
By dealing, Poston claims, Kenny Bartley bought himself 20 years more than he'd get, were he convicted of second degree murder.
"From what I've seen of Mrs. Bruce, who has been on camera more than anybody, I suspect she'll be at the parole hearings each and every time," Poston said. "I expect that boy will do every bit of 45 years, he won't get paroled early."
To comment, the following rules must be followed:
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content, but the station is under no legal obligation to do so.
If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator.
Flagging does not guarantee removal.
Multiple violations may result in account suspension.
Decisions to suspend or unsuspend accounts are made by Station Moderators.
Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide detailed information.