GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - The youngest of six Kentuckians sentenced to life in prison for the 1997 shooting deaths of a couple and their 6-year-old daughter has appealed his conviction, claiming his rights were violated when he entered a plea agreement.
Jason Blake Bryant, now 22, was 14 when Vidar and Delfina Lillelid, their daughter Tabitha and 2-year-old son were taken hostage at a rest area on Interstate 81 in Greene County and shot on a dirt road. The boy was seriously wounded but survived and lives with relatives in Sweden.
Six teenagers, ranging in age from 14 to 20, were arrested two days later in Arizona driving the Lillelids' van.
Bryant filed an appeal of his 1998 conviction on May 25 in U.S. District Court. He is serving his sentence at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City.
Judge Thomas Hull, who has already dismissed petitions from some of the other co-defendants, accepted Bryant's appeal, giving prosecutors 30 days to respond.
Bryant says his rights to due process were violated when he and the other five pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and theft in exchange for the state not seeking the death penalty. He says he had nothing to lose by going to trial because he was too young to get the death penalty.
Bryant has exhausted his appeals in the Tennessee state court system.