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Death penalty hearing set to begin for grandmother of James Alexander Hurley

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 05, 2022

UPDATE: 6/6/2022 - 10:34 AM - The hearing has begun, MTN's Jane McDonald is covering the hearing and will have coverage later today.

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A death penalty hearing for Patricia Batts—charged with deliberate homicide in connection with the death of her grandson, Alex Hurley—is slated to begin at the Gallatin County Law and Justice Center on Monday, June 6.

Initially, Batts was to begin a jury trial in May of 2022, but Judge John Brown has informed counsel that he is considering a later date, potentially July 2023, though no official date has been set.

It was a story that rocked the small community of West Yellowstone. Twelve-year-old James Alexander Hurley was found dead in his grandparents' home in February of 2020. Five people were charged in connection with the abuse and ultimate death of Hurley.

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12-year-old James Alexander Hurley was found dead in his grandparents’ home in the early months of 2020

Four out of the five defendants have been sentenced, most recently James Sasser Jr., Hurley’s grandfather. Sasser Jr. was sentenced to 100 years in the Montana State Prison for his role in the death of Hurley, 10 years for criminal endangerment, and another 10 years for tampering with evidence.

The fifth and final suspect to see their day in court is Patricia Batts. The death penalty is on the table for Batts, which would make her the first woman in Montana state history to receive this sentence—if carried out.

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James Sasser Jr. was sentenced to 100 years for his role in the torture and death of Alex Hurley

“Of course, when you’re seeking the ultimate penalty, that is of extreme importance to Patricia Batts, and of course it’s very important to the people of the state of Montana as well,” County Attorney Marty Lambert said.

Batts’ defense counsel has filed seven motions arguing against the death penalty, based on different legal theories.

Lambert says it’s understandable that the defense filed these motions in this case. Lambert has, however, written the state's answers to these motions and will present them to Judge Brown on June 6.

MTN News was unable to schedule an interview with the defense counsel for Patricia Batts before this story's deadline.