The Kansas City Star – Joe Lambe
A girl who shot a teen to death at age 13 — the youngest killer to be prosecuted as an adult in Kansas — will be among the youngest inmates serving life.
A Wyandotte County judge on Thursday sentenced Keaira Brown, also known as Keaire Brown, now 16, to life with no parole possible for 20 years.
Defense lawyers said they will appeal and raise the issue of whether Kansas law allowing adult prosecution and life sentences for children that young is unconstitutional.
Prosecutors and the family of the victim, 16-year-old victim Scott Sappington Jr., say Brown committed a heinous crime and deserves the time.
A jury convicted her last year of shooting Sappington in the head in Kansas City, Kan., on July 23, 2008, during a botched carjacking. Besides felony first-degree murder, they also convicted her of attempted aggravated robbery.
Judge Ernest Johnson imposed a 32-month sentence for the robbery charge but made it concurrent to the life sentence.
Sappington, an athlete who worked two jobs, had just dropped off his younger siblings with his grandmother when he was shot at close range.
At the hearing Thursday, an aunt read the judge a statement from Felicia Johnson, Scott’s mother.
Many lives changed for the worse when Scott died days before he turned 17, his mother wrote.
“Scott was known for keeping his classmates, family and friends laughing when they were down,” she wrote. “Scott was such a joy.”
His father, Scott Sappington Sr., told Brown in court: “You chose this path of destruction. You took a great man from us.”
They asked for the maximum sentence.
Cheryl Turner, Brown’s mother, said the justice system has shown blind hostility and revenge toward her daughter.
The girl who loved animals, roller skating and movies is now locked up with hard women who talk about drugs and tell grim war stories, her mother said.
Brown told the judge, “I’m a kid, too,” and noted that a Wyandotte County judge in 2009 chose not to prosecute another 13-year-old for murder as an adult.
“Now I feel like the state is taking (my life) and nobody cares but my family,” she said.
Vernon Lewis, her defense lawyer, argued for mercy.
“We can never stop trying to nurture and raise our young,” he said. Society won’t let children do many things because they are too immature, he said, yet in Kansas children as young as 10 can be prosecuted as adults.
Sheryl Lidtke, assistant prosecutor, noted that the judge had to impose the life sentence under the law and she asked that the other sentence be concurrent.
“Let’s not forget our victim was also a teenager with no criminal record,” she said. “He was dropping off his siblings and going to work and did nothing more that try to protect his car.”
Johnson told lawyers it would be up to an appeals court to assess the ruling of another judge that Brown be prosecuted as an adult.
Lidtke said the appeal ruling could clarify issues of Kansas law related to the prosecution of young criminals.