- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s Supreme Court has ordered a new sentencing for a Newark woman convicted of killing a high school rival hours after the victim celebrated her graduation in 2008.

Nicole Guyette was convicted in 2010 of aggravated manslaughter in the shooting death of Sujeiti Ocasio after a verbal dispute in front of Ocasio’s house in Newark. The 18-year-old Ocasio had celebrated her graduation from Barringer High School hours earlier. Prosecutors at the time said the two women had clashed before.

The arraigning judge called the case “among the saddest I’ve ever dealt with in 20 years on the bench.”

During the trial, Guyette testified she believed the gun was inoperable and that she intended to hit Ocasio with the gun, not shoot her, according to court documents.

A state Superior Court judge sentenced Guyette to 20 years in prison with no chance of parole for at least 17 years under the state’s No Early Release Act. Guyette’s attorneys appealed the sentence on numerous grounds, including that the judge had improperly weighed one of the aggravating factors at sentencing - “the gravity and seriousness of the harm inflicted on the victim.”

An appeals court rejected those arguments in a ruling last year, but on Tuesday the Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for re-sentencing and ordered the judge to specifically address whether the aggravating factor in question should have been applied in the case.

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