Appeal hearing continued for Niles teen serving life for shooting grandfather

His father and now Michigan's appeals court say the jury didn't hear the whole story when they found a Niles teen guilty of shooting his grandfather in the head.

16-year-old Dakotah Eliason is now serving a life sentence without parole.

The state appellate court claims the defense attorney focused on only one part of the Eliason's psychological problems but not the whole picture.

“All anybody has seen in this case was the tip of the iceberg,” says Dakotah’s father, Steve Eliason. “They didn't see all of the events in his life, from the time he was born until this happened.”

Thursday was the beginning of the evidentiary hearing by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

There were two issues raised to appeal the teen's life without parole sentence.

The first issue, that members of the jury could see Eliason’s ankle shackles, was dismissed immediately. Jurors surveyed said they couldn't see his ankle shackles.

During the hearing it was argued no one testified as to why Eliason didn't show remorse after the crime. Eliason's attorney admitted he worked with three psychologists looking for an insanity plea but nothing beyond that like the teen’s family background or remorseful behavior.

“Almost immediately after this happened or the next couple of hours…everything Dakotah said, his personality was captured by video or police officers who testified,” says Eliason’s defense attorney, Lanny Fisher.

But the judge asked in the beginning if proving remorse would have weighed in on the jury's decision anyway.

Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter says, “I think based upon the testimony by Lanny Fisher as well as the contents in the board, I think the judge has more than enough to decide on effective assistance to counsel.”

The hearing has been continued until February. The state brought a fourth psychologist to testify. He can’t testify until the court of appeals gives the prosecution permission to cross examine the expert considering the records are sealed.


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