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Bill Will Fit Punishment to Crime for Juveniles Convicted of Murder

STONE COUNTY, Mo. -- Missouri prosecutors are looking for a way to make sure the punishment fits the crime for the most violent teen offenders.
STONE COUNTY, Mo. -- Missouri prosecutors are looking for a way to make sure the punishment fits the crime for the most violent teen offenders.

There are U.S. Supreme Court rulings from recent years that do not allow the death penalty or life in prison without parole, because of the age of these offenders.

That leaves Missouri prosecutors in a Catch 22 with the only punishment allowable under First Degree murder in the state set at the death penalty or life in prison without parole, the very thing the Supreme Court says is not allowed for young teens.

"And my bill provides another option," says Missouri State Representative Stanley Cox from Sedalia, also a former prosecutor, the sponsor of House Bill 1560.

"My particular proposal provides 50 years without parole," explained Cox "That's a long time to be in prison but again these are people who have committed heinous crimes that society needs to be protected from and people need to be punished for."

During a committee hearing Monday, Cox heard directly from Stone County Prosecutor Matt Selby in Selby's role with the Missouri prosecutor's association.

Selby testified in favor of the bill. Selby is dealing with the Stone County case of Anthony Zarro and Christopher Allen.

Zarro was 16 and Allen 15 years old when they ran away from the Lives Under Construction ranch for at-risk youth and allegedly killed their victims.

They will stand trial as adults.

Now, 17-year-old Anthony Zarro admitted killing 70-year-old Paul Brooks and his 69-year-old wife, Margaret by beating them and stabbing them in a lake cabin according to the probable cause statement in the case.

"There has to be a distinction between the deliberate and premeditated murder and the killing which does not include deliberation," says Cox.

Cox says he expects his version of the bill to pass out of committee with few changes.

Cox also says if the House and the Senate have slightly different positions he expects that they can reach what he called "some accommodation" because he says lawmakers need to be committed to getting this fix through this year.

Some, even in the committee meeting yesterday think the 50-year sentence is too long and still does not take the youth of the offender into consideration.
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