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North Dakota Supreme Court denies murder convict's sentence appeal

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russell craig

Russell Craig, shown here when he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in March 2007, pleaded guilty to murder in the June 2006 stabbing death of his wife.

A Bismarck man convicted of killing his wife 15 years ago has lost an attempt to alter the parole eligibility dates of his life sentence.

Russell Craig, 58, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in the 2006 death of his wife, Pamela Johnson-Craig, 43. Johnson-Craig was stabbed three times in the back, and one wound punctured an artery near her heart.

The North Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed a district court’s ruling that denied Craig's claim for post-conviction relief. Any issues that might allow such relief had already been brought up or should have been brought up at earlier proceedings, the panel said.

Craig in October 2020 filed an application for relief, arguing that his parole date had been illegally changed. Prosecutors denied the allegation and countered that the matter had been settled in previous proceedings. South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick agreed with prosecutors.

Craig appealed to the high court, saying the lower court was wrong in determining his claims had already been considered in a 2018 motion to withdraw his guilty plea. He made the motion because he said he didn’t understand at the time of his plea that he could spend 30 years in prison before being eligible for parole. He cited poor legal representation.

Justices in the 2018 matter noted that Craig admitted he did not previously raise issues of possible retroactive or illegal changes to his sentence at the district court level. Justices in the most recent decision said some issues should have been brought up earlier, and other issues had already been settled.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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