2 women released early from Minnesota prison after felony murder law change

Two women released from prison this week may be the very first inmates in Minnesota to have their sentences reduced under new legislation redefining the crime of aiding and abetting felony murder.

Megan Cater and Briana Martinson were charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to aiding in the murder of Corey Elder in Bloomington nearly seven years ago. The killing was motivated by an attempt to steal drugs from the victim.

Authorities acknowledged Cater and Martinson had lesser roles in the slaying. According to court documents, the two women stormed into Elder’s apartment on April 27, 2017, in a group of four. While they went inside and ransacked the apartment, searching for drugs, the two other co-defendants violently assaulted Elder before killing him.

The women initially received matching 13.5-year prison sentences. However, the state legislature recently rewrote the laws on aiding and abetting the crime of felony murder so that only those who directly commit the murder or directly aid them can be charged with the crime. Supporters of the change have said it is significant because those convicted of felony murder can be sentenced to life behind bars. The new law can also be applied retroactively to those already in prison.

RELATED: Murder victim's loved one questions early release for convicts after MN law change


Related: Murder victim's loved one questions early release for convicts after MN law change

The loved ones of a murder victim are speaking out, disgusted that two women involved in a fatal burglary were released from prison early, after a change in law.

This week, Cater and Martinson were resentenced on lesser aiding and abetting first-degree burglary crimes after Elder’s family provided a victim impact statement to the court. Cater received 69 months (5.75 years). She had already served more than six years. Martinson’s sentence was reduced to 57 months (4.75 years). She, too, had served more than six years. Both women were subsequently released from prison the very same day. They were originally scheduled to be released in the fall of 2026.

"We are grateful Megan Cater has been given this second chance by Minnesota legislators to re-enter society," said Cater’s attorney, JaneAnne Murray, who believes the women are the very first to have their convictions reduced and resentenced through a newly established court process. "There are too many people serving lengthy sentences in Minnesota’s prisons that do not reflect their minor and less culpable roles in their offenses."

"Ms. Martinson is grateful the Minnesota Legislature recognized that the previous felony murder law in Minnesota created too great a disconnect between liability and culpability," added Martinson’s attorney, Bradford Colbert. "While she did not play a role in the tragic death that occurred, she understands the gravity of the loss and the trauma that night caused for so many. She feels awful for what happened, and deeply regrets her role in the events of that evening."

Pictured Megan Cater (left) and Briana Martinson (right). (Credit: Minnesota Department of Corrections) (Supplied)

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, whose office was supportive of Cater and Martinson's post-conviction appeal for resentencing in the case, released the following statement to FOX 9: "This result is an important step toward improving justice and fairness in our legal system. Ms. Cater and Ms. Martinson have been held accountable for the harm that they actually intended. They have served their time, but they should not serve more time for a crime they never committed.

Last year the legislature made an important change to the law to ensure that people can be charged with murder only if they caused death, intended to cause death, or were a major participant in an underlying felony that resulted in death. None of those circumstances applied to either Ms. Martinson or Ms. Cater. Under the law, they would not now be eligible to be charged with murder, and that is why the law provides for them to be resentenced."

In a written statement to FOX 9 on Monday, Bobbie Elder, Corey’s mother said the family is not satisfied, believing the criminal justice system has let their son down: "Although this change in law has its time and place for being warranted, this case is not one of them. Megan Cater and Brianna Martinson were the masterminds behind the events that led up to my son, Corey Elder’s, murder. They think that it was the actions of Maurice Verser that landed them in prison, but it was THEIR actions that did so. They were the ones that had and arranged the entire plan, including ensuring there was a gun present. They have convinced themselves and their families as a false narrative that paints them as victims, which is the opposite of the facts."