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An Atlanta woman who violently beat her 11-year-old stepdaughter to death nine years ago is challenging her life sentence on the grounds that she was denied access to a lawyer when arrested.

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A Henry County judge found Charlott Lynette Reaves guilty of felony murder, aggravated battery and child cruelty in the 2003 murder of Joella Reaves. Along with the child’s father, Rodney Reaves, she hog-tied the girl, starved and beat her to death with an umbrella in 2003. Both were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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During a state Supreme Court hearing Monday, Reaves’ lawyer argued that officers didn’t allow her to speak with an attorney and failed to read her her rights upon arrest. “When Henry County police first talked to Reaves … they did so for 14 minutes without reading her her rights,” Franklin Hogue told the presiding judges. He also claimed that Reaves repeatedly asked for an attorney during her interrogation.

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But James Wright, a prosecutor with the Henry County District Attorney’s office,countered that Reaves was aware that she didn’t have to share any information with officers after her arrest and that she never requested a lawyer. “She indicated she fully understood her rights when asked on several occasions,” Wright said. “At no time did she unambiguously and clearly ask for an attorney.”

State justices are currently debating the appeal. A final ruling can take months.

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