A sentence reduction hearing was held in Fourth Judicial District Court in Sheridan Thursday morning for a Sheridan man convicted of First Degree Murder; Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary; and Aggravated Burglary. Sheridan Media's Ron Richter was there and has the details.
In August of 2009, then 19-year-old Dennis Poitra Jr. was one of three teenagers who broke into the home of Robert Ernst, a well known Sheridan businessman. In what can only be described as a burglary attempt gone fatally wrong, one of the teens, Dharminder Vir Sen, shot Ernst multiple times, resulting in his death. In November of 2010, Poitra was sentenced to Life Without Parole for the murder charge, 20-25 years for the Conspiracy charge to run consecutive to the murder charge, and 20-25 years for the aggravated burglary, which runs consecutive to the Conspiracy charge.
Thursday in District Court, Poitra's Defense Attorney, Erin Wardell argued that her defendant had a rough upbringing with virtually no family support and that he would eventually “age out” of his behavior as he matures and learns to cope with his surroundings. She also stated that Poitra's sentence should be reduced to Life in Prison because he wasn't the one who shot Ernst.
Prosecuting Attorney Matt Redle replied by pointing out Poitra's lengthy juvenile record along with multiple infractions since he's been in prison, that included threatening to kill one of the guards and attacking another inmate from behind. He added that the defendant has shown the Court time and time again who the real Dennis Poitra Jr. is, and that the number one issue of the hearing that was taking place, was that of public safety.
District Court Judge John Fenn denied the motion for a sentence reduction, stating that he has certainly given the matter a great deal of thought and that ultimately the Court's decision is in line with the prosecutor's argument of public safety.