VERMILLION, S.D. — A former South Dakota police chief found guilty in the 2009 death of his pregnant fiancee is asking the state Supreme Court to vacate his first-degree murder conviction.
Arguments in Russell Bertram’s case are set for Wednesday. The one-time Harrisburg police chief was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole for fatally shooting 26-year-old Leonila Stickney.
Bertram was accused of shooting Stickney out of jealousy and to collect more than $900,000 in insurance benefits. Defense attorneys argued it was accidental.
The defense says the conviction should be vacated because of constitutional violations and evidentiary deficiencies. Bertram’s attorneys argue the trial court abused its discretion by allowing evidence of Bertram’s sexual encounters with other women during his engagement to Stickney.
They say that evidence wasn’t relevant to first-degree murder.