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Barrett sentencing for role in Grunwald murder delayed

The judge pushed the hearing back one week so the defense attorney could be present in the courtroom with his client.
Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 11:30 AM AKST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 at 11:34 AM AKST
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) -Nearly four years to the day after a Palmer teenager was executed, the first of his four killers was going to be sentenced for the crime.

Instead, the family of David Grunwald saw justice for their son delayed yet again.

Austin Barrett was scheduled to be sentenced during a hearing that was broadcast live via YouTube because of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge Gregory Heath said the live broadcasting provided access for the public and members of the media who were not allowed to be there for the hearing in person.

His attorney, Craig Howard, called in from California and was upset the hearing was going to be live streamed on the internet. “If I would have known this I would have filed a pleading litigating this,” Howard said.

Judge Heath ultimately pushed the hearing back one more week.

CASE BACKGROUND

Barrett is one of four people convicted of murdering 16-year-old Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016.

State prosecutors said Barrett, Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson and Bradley Renfro pistol-whipped Grunwald in a camper then drove him to Knik River Road and shot him once in the head. The state hasn’t been able to prove who pulled the trigger.

Separate juries convicted Almandinger, Johnson and Renfro of first-degree murder in the case.

Earlier this year Barrett took an agreement to plead guilty to one count of second-degree murder after the judge ruled some of the state’s evidence could not be used at trial. He agreed to a 45-year sentence followed by 10 years of probation.

SENTENCING DELAYED

Howard seemed to object to the live streaming of the sentencing on several grounds: He wanted to be present with his client and he didn’t want the video up on the internet.

Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak tried to come up with a compromise that Barrett could have his video turned off for most of the proceeding and then turned back on when he needed to make a statement.

The clerk told the judge that wasn’t possible.

Judge Heath pushed the sentencing one week so Barrett and his attorney could be in the courtroom together.

“In my opinion, I think it’s better to have the defendant here so he can face the Grunwalds when they make their statements. They have a right to do that,” Judge Heath said.

He said the next hearing would also be broadcast on YouTube as approved by the court system.

“I would tell Mr. Howard that the court system in Alaska is now doing YouTube and it’s becoming a little more universal,” he said, referencing a trial that took place online in Kenai. “YouTube will be on Mr. Howard.”

Again, Howard objected to the hearing going on the internet.

The sentencing is rescheduled to Friday, November 20 at 8:30 a.m.

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