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100-year prison sentence overturned for Minot man who killed his father

The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled the sentence for Christopher Vickerman was unlawful. He will be resentenced at a later date.

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Christopher Vickerman
North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
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BISMARCK — A 100-year prison sentence for a Minot man found guilty of killing his father in 2019 has been overturned.

The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled the sentence handed down last year to Christopher Alan Vickerman, 32, was unlawful, according to an opinion published Thursday, Nov. 10. A resentencing hearing was not set as of Friday.

Vickerman faced life in prison without parole after a jury found him guilty of fatally shooting 55-year-old Mark Vickerman on May 10, 2019.

Ward County Judge Douglas Mattson sentenced Vickerman to 100 years, though he only had to serve 80 years if he didn’t violate the terms of supervised probation for five years once he was released. The defendant also had almost three years worth of credit for time served while awaiting trial.

The two Vickermans had a troubled relationship and argued over business, money and custody of Christopher Vickerman’s children, the Minot Daily News reported. The defense claimed Christopher Vickerman was schizophrenic and had no control over his actions, but prosecutors said no mental health professional found him to be unfit for trial, the newspaper wrote.

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Prosecutors also claimed Christopher Vickerman planned the murder for months, the Daily News reported.

Mattson called Christopher Vickerman’s conduct “despicable,” according to court documents. The judge said he handed down the lengthy sentence in an attempt to make it harder for the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to release him early, court documents said.

Defendants found guilty of murder can seek parole after serving 85% of their sentence. If a person is sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, judges are supposed to determine a convict’s life expectancy so the DOCR knows the estimated release date.

Vickerman was slated to be released from the State Penitentiary in 2087.

If the sentence stood, Vickerman would have served 66 years and be 96 years old when he was eligible for parole. Vickerman’s appeal attorney, Robert Martin, argued that Mattson gave Vickerman a sentence that exceeded his life expectancy.

The state's high court agreed.

Martin also argued to the state Supreme Court that his client deserved a new trial. Martin claimed Mattson should not have allowed prosecutors to present Mark Vickerman’s statements to jurors, including one in which the father said police should look to his son if Mark Vickerman died by violence.

Others testified about fears from the father that Christopher Vickerman may hurt him.

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The statements were allowable in court since they showed the victim’s state of mind before he died, the Supreme Court ruled.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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