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ND high court rejects post-conviction relief for man convicted of hiring hitman to kill son-in-law

FARGO - The North Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday shot down the third appeal of a man convicted in 2011 of hiring a hitman to kill his son-in-law, a Fargo dentist.

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In this file photo, Gene Kirkpatrick, convicted of conspiring to have dentist son-in-law killed for custody of his 3-year-old granddaughter, is asks for a new trial on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, at the Cass County Courthouse in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – The North Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday shot down the third appeal of a man convicted in 2011 of hiring a hitman to kill his son-in-law, a Fargo dentist.

Gene Kirkpatrick, who is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole, claimed that he rejected a good plea deal because of bad advice from his lawyer, Steven Light.

According to Kirkpatrick, Light told him that if he accepted the plea deal-which called for 25 years in prison- he would not be eligible for parole until he served 85 percent of those years.

Instead of taking the plea deal, Kirkpatrick went to trial and ended up with a much worse sentence when a jury convicted him of hiring a handyman, Michael Nakvinda, to kill his son-in-law, Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso.

Prosecutors said Kirkpatrick wanted to gain custody of his granddaughter, whose mother died shortly before the killing.

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The justices ruled that Kirkpatrick's application for post-conviction relief was faulty because he did not raise the issue in his first application for post-conviction relief, which the justices rejected in March.

Kirkpatrick "misused the process," the court wrote.

In the previous application for post-conviction relief, Kirkpatrick unsuccessfully argued that he received bad legal advice when his attorney recommended that he not testify at trial.

In 2012, Kirkpatrick appealed his conviction and lost.

Related Topics: CRIMEFARGONORTH DAKOTA
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