Convicted murderer appeals Kansas ‘Hard 50’ law

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- A Johnson County man who was sentenced to life in prison says he shouldn't have to serve 50 years before being eligible for parole.  A jury convicted Dustin Hilt of murdering a 19-year-old woman in 2009, and a judge imposed the so-called "Hard 50" restriction on Hilt's parole.

On Tuesday morning, Hilt's attorney argued before the Kansas Supreme Court that the state's "Hard 50" law was unconstitutional at the time Hilt received it.

Hilt, 22, was one of three suspects charged in the gruesome murder of Keighly Alyea, of Overland Park.  Her stabbed and beaten body was found in a rural Missouri farm field four years ago this month.

Hilt's lawyer is seeking a new trial in part because a recently amended law requires juries, not judges, to impose the 50-year minimum sentence that Hilt received.

Alyea's mother told FOX 4 News she has confidence in the justice system, and says no reasonable person would let Hilt out of prison, based on the evidence of his crime.

"I do not see anybody saying it's OK for him to get out," said Kelley Bastel, the victim's mother. "I think he's going to serve more than his 50 years and he's going to die in prison."

In convicting Hilt, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe compared the attacks on Alyea to a scene in the movie, Goodfellas, where a victim was locked alive in the trunk of a car, trying to get out.  Howe told jurors and the court that the evidence indicated Alyea was still alive after repeated attacks when she was locked in the trunk of a vehicle and driven out to the farm field, where her body was found.

The state supreme court has taken the case under advisement.  If Hilt does not get a new trial, his lawyer wants him to be eligible for parole after only 25 years behind bars.

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