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Battle Creek man loses new appeal in 2016 killing

Battle Creek Enquirer logo Battle Creek Enquirer 6/17/2021 Trace Christenson, Battle Creek Enquirer

A Battle Creek man serving a life sentence in prison has lost his newest appeal of his murder conviction.

Stephen Getter, 34, was seeking a new trial in the December 27, 2016 death of his long-time friend, Robert Barroso, II, 27.

In a two-line order the Michigan Court of Appeals said Wednesday, "the application for leave to appeal is denied because defendant has failed to establish that the trial court erred in denying the motion for relief from judgement."

Getter's attorney, Timothy Doman of Dearborn, had sought to overturn a decision in April by Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Hallacy and grant Getter a new trial. Doman said Thursday he will appeal the latest ruling.

Doman had argued that Getter's trial attorney was ineffective because he didn't ask for instructions for self defense for the jury to consider.

He said jurors knew who killed Barroso but didn't know why it happened. He argued that the forensic evidence didn't contradict a self defense argument and there were no witnesses to the killing and Barroso was the aggressor because he invited Getter to fight.

The two men were involved in an ongoing relationship with the same woman, which culminated with an agreement to meet and fight.

The men met near Lake of the Pines in Lee Township northeast of Marshall and Prosecutor David Gilbert argued at the trial that Getter first shot Barroso five times in the back and and then stabbed him seven times including a fatal wound to the head.

"This was not a murder, it was an assassination," Gilbert told the jury at the trial.

Getter told the jury he only shot Barroso because he was advancing with a knife.

"I thought my life was in danger," Getter told the jury.

Doman said if the jury had been able to consider self defense, perhaps one of the jurors might have had reasonable doubt. He argued that Getter's trial attorney, Brandon Hultink, should have asked the judge to give the jury the instructions for self defense to consider during their deliberations.

Prosecutors argued in an April hearing that Hultink had a trial strategy to seek a lessor charge rather than self defense.

Judge Hallacy agreed, saying in his oral opinion from the bench that "the argument was for a lessor conviction rather than first-degree murder; that it was done in an emotional situation given the love triangle that was present."

Hallacy said Hultink did an excellent job representing Getter at trial. "He performed very well."

The judge also said he didn't see the facts of the case allowing an argument by Hultink for self defense. "The defense was not negligent in any way.

"The facts do not speak to self defense. To me the injuries were not supportive of self defense."

And the judge noted that the conviction has been upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals and that the argument of self defense was not presented by an earlier appeals attorney.

In a statement Thursday, Doman said, "we are very disappointed in the Court of Appeals Decision, as it leaves an injustice remedied. We are confident, thought, that it will not be the last word in the case, as we plan to pursue further appeals."

Getter is being held at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe.

Contact Trace Christenson at 269-966-0685 or tchrist@battlecreekenquirer.com

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Battle Creek man loses new appeal in 2016 killing

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