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Retrial urged for teen girls

LAWRENCEVILLE - Attorneys for two Buford teens convicted last month of killing their adoptive mother have motioned for a new trial.

A jury convicted Brenda and Catherine O'Connell, both 17, of strangling Muriel O'Connell, 57, who had adopted them separately from a Guatemalan orphanage a few years prior to her death.

A judge sentenced the teens Oct. 24 to life sentences on charges of murder, malice murder and aggravated assault. Should the ruling stand, their first chances at parole would come in 2038, when the girls are 47 years old.

As is typical, attorneys representing the teens have filed motions for a new trial, according to documents filed in Gwinnett Superior Court.

"That's standard for any conviction in a criminal case," said Hillary Krepistman, who represented Catherine O'Connell.

It could be months before both parties meet for a hearing on the new trial motion, as the entire transcript for the month-long trial has to be prepared first, said Dan Mayfield, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney.

Judge Tom Davis, who presided over the original trial, will have the authority to grant a new trial to the defendants should he see fit.

"That rarely happens," Mayfield said.

Later, in the months following the upcoming hearing, the defendants are expected to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court to ask again for a new trial.

Both teens have remained at the Gwinnett County Jail since their convictions three weeks ago, jail records show. Krepistman said her client will likely be moved to the state prison system discreetly, for safety reasons, by the time the new trial hearing occurs.

Given the complex nature of the case and mounds of evidence, the jury's resolution came sooner - roughly seven hours after deliberations began - than some close to the case had expected.

The defense theorized that the girls suffered from battered person's syndrome, brought on by their mother's continued mental and physical abuse, and killed her in self-defense during a fight that spanned the home.

Jurors, however, sided with prosecutors, who said the girls planned a covert attack on Muriel O'Connell as she lay in bed, restraining her arms while choking her to death. The girls were 15 years old at the time.