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Killer tries to remove guilty plea

PORTSMOUTH, Va., April 2 (UPI) -- A Virginia man convicted of murder in 2008 and sentenced to 148 years in jail claims he was unlawfully imprisoned and is innocent.

Robert Lee Barnes, who at the age of 16 climbed through a bedroom window to stab high school classmate Meghan Landowski 40 times, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, rape, sexual battery, abduction and statutory burglary in a crime that shocked the Portsmouth, Va., community.

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Now 20, Barnes is currently in Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va., and after exhausting all other appeals, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, attempting to withdraw his guilty plea and claiming he was not the killer, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot said Monday.

Barnes claims he was persuaded by his lawyers to enter the guilty plea. His current request is being made without the help of an attorney, the newspaper noted.

State attorney Earle C. Mobley said a filing such as Barnes' is typical of inmates whose previous appeals have failed.

"I think it was about as strong a case as we've ever had," Mobley said of the 2008 trial and sentencing. "The chance of it being set aside, under any circumstances, are remote."

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