An Adams, N.D., man who was convicted of shooting and killing his daughter in May 2019 has had his 10-year prison sentence upheld.
The North Dakota Supreme Court unanimously upheld the sentencing of Steven Donald Aune, who was found guilty of manslaughter in 2020 after a weapon he was holding was discharged during an argument with his daughter, striking her in the abdomen and resulting in her death. According to court records, Aune was drunk at the time of the incident.
Aune was sentenced to 10 years in prison after the trial.
At sentencing, Aune had asked the court for the four-year minimum sentence, but due to his lengthy criminal history and behavior he was given the maximum sentence of 10 years, the Herald reported.
Aune appealed the sentence, arguing that the jury’s guilty verdict on the charge of manslaughter and not guilty on the charge of murder under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life was “inconsistent,” according to a court document.
Aune argued that his sentence was illegal because the district court relied on an “impermissible factor” at sentencing by considering Aune’s prior convictions without first noting whether those convictions were uncounseled. Aune does not argue his past convictions were actually uncounseled, the court document said.
“Aune argues his criminal history was one of the factors relied upon by the court to give a maximum sentence, which indicates that the court relied upon an impermissible factor, making the sentence illegal,” the court document said.
In its opinion released Tuesday, Jan. 12, the North Dakota Supreme Court said Aune “did not receive an enhanced sentence, because his sentence was not beyond the statutory maximum, nor were the convictions used to impose a mandatory minimum sentence.”
Adams is a small town in Walsh County, west of Park River and Grafton.