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King brothers get reduced jail sentences

Boys plead guilty to 3rd-degree murder in father's death

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Derek King, 14, admitted killing his father at the suggestion of his 13-year-old brother.

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PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Two Florida brothers will serve sentences in state prison after pleading guilty to killing their father with a baseball bat, a judge announced Thursday.

Derek King, 14, will spend eight years in state prison, and his 13-year-old brother Alex will spend seven years in state prison.

The sentences announced by Circuit Court Judge Frank Bell came after they agreed to plead guilty to arson and third-degree murder in the slaying of their father, Terry King. This agreement represents a reduction of the second-degree murder convictions the boys were given in September and which Bell threw out.

The pleas and sentences came out of a court-ordered mediation that reached resolution Wednesday. Attorneys entered mediation after Bell tossed out a jury conviction just before a sentencing last month that could have put the boys in jail for life.

Prosecutor David Rimmer explained that third-degree murder is as a killing that occurs unintentionally while a defendant is committing another felony.

"Certain felonies, like robbery, constitute first-degree murder," Rimmer said. "But in this case the third-degree felony is battery -- which is not in the listing of charges -- the beating of Terry King with the bat. For third-degree murder, you only have to show that the defendant intended to commit the battery."

Rimmer said that both boys would be eligible for early release, but only after they had served 85 percent of their sentences. Bell reduced the boys' prison time by granting both nearly a year's credit for time served since their arrest last year.

In a statement he signed as part of his pleading, Derek King, 14, admitted killing his father at the suggestion of his 13-year-old brother.

"I murdered my dad with an aluminum baseball bat and I set the house on fire from my dad's bedroom," Derek said in the statement read by Bell.

Alex's statement corroborated his brother's.

"I suggested that Derek kill my dad," he said in the statement read in court by the judge.

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Alex King answered "No, sir" when the judge asked if anyone had tried to mislead him.

The brothers' case garnered national attention, not only because of the sensational crime for which they were accused, but also because the same prosecutor tried another man for the crime, also accusing him of killing Terry King with the baseball bat.

The verdict in that trial was kept sealed and opened at the conclusion of the boys' trial, revealing that Ricky Chavis, a 40-year-old family friend and convicted sex offender, was found not guilty.

Derek King's statement said Chavis "encouraged my brother Alex and I to run away" and skip school, let them stay up late and sleep late, and hid them when their father came over.

"He told us that Dad would kill us before he would let us live with Rick," Derek said in the statement read by the judge.

Derek's statement said that Chavis had encouraged the boys to lie by telling police that they had killed their father because he was abusive.

"That was not true," Derek said. "My dad never abused me."

Alex's statement said Chavis had told him he loved him and that he was gay. Alex also agreed to testify against Chavis on a charge of being an accessory to the murder and another of lewd and lascivious behavior.

The brothers, sitting at separate tables, smiled and laughed with attorneys before the hearing began until the judge's bailiff called the court in session.

Both answered a crisp "No, sir," when Bell asked if they thought anyone had tried to mislead them in any way.

Bell thoroughly questioned the boys about their understanding of the proceedings, whether they consider themselves legally incompetent -- as their mother alleged in a faxed letter to the judge -- and whether they trusted their attorneys.

Both answered that they were satisfied with their attorneys' representation in court and believed they had their clients best interests at heart -- a position the boys' mother challenged.

Kelly Marino, mother of the King brothers, told the judge her sons weren't competent to understand the agreement.
Kelly Marino, mother of the King brothers, told the judge her sons weren't competent to understand the agreement.

The mediation began last week and included discussions with attorneys representing the mother, Kelly Marino.

Marino's attorneys filed a motion for a competency hearing for the boys just before Thursday's hearing, but Bell ruled that because those attorneys were not the attorneys of record they had no standing with the court to file motions.

"A big issue was made out of the children's competency in court today," one of Marino's attorneys, Ron Johnson, said after the sentencing. "She's not saying they're crazy. She's saying they (were) 12 and 13 years old and she thinks it's only reasonable for them to be evaluated by a psychiatrist before they enter a plea agreement to such serious charges."

Marino told reporters that she believed the boys' guilty plea was involuntary because they "don't know the seriousness of this." She also said she had talked with the boys "a million times" and they had repeatedly assured her they did not commit the crimes of which they were accused.

Johnson also claimed the process was illegal, but mediator Bill Eddins said he was "confident" that the process was legal and proper.

Prosecutor Rimmer dismissed Marino -- who left the family when the boys were very young -- saying the King brothers "would not be going to the state pen if she'd paid more attention to them in their playpens."

The brothers spoke with family members -- including their mother -- to discuss the terms of their resolution Wednesday night and were prepared to go forward, both Alex and Derek told the judge.

The boys originally had confessed to killing their father and setting fire to the home last November, but later changed their story and implicated Chavis, claiming the older man had persuaded them to take the blame.

-- CNN Correspondent Mark Potter contributed to this report.



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