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Life sentence recommended in killing of Jefferson City corrections officer

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the sentencing recommendation.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

A jury has recommended a life sentence Tuesday against the man accused of shooting and killing a Jefferson City corrections officer.

Jahuan Whirley was only 16 at the time of the December 2018 shooting. He was accused of robbing and shooting 33-year-old corrections officer Justin Kammerich and 20-year-old Alex Myers along West Atchison Street in Jefferson City in December 2018. Kammerich was killed and Myers survived after being shot three times.

The jury began deliberation last week and convicted him Monday on eight felony counts including second-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree attempted robbery and armed criminal action. The jury recommended a life sentence for second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Tuesday, the defense asked the jury to have mercy on Whirley since he was 16 at the time of the shooting and that Whirley can be rehabilitated.

During the recommended sentencing phase of the trial, the defense presented 13 witnesses that included friends and family of Whirley and two psychologists.

Dr. Lauerence Steinberg and Andrew Fowler both testified that adolescents are more impulsive and don't think about the consequences of their actions. Stating, adolescents are more focused on rewards than consequences.

Dr. Steinberg told the jury that the human brain is still developing at age 16 and doesn't stop maturing till the age of 22 or 23 so adolescents' behavior changes over time while their brain is still developing.

During testimony, Dr. Fowler told the jury that after he conducted an evaluation on Whirley that he doesn't have a profile that would preclude him from rehabilitation, telling the jury he has the potential to improve.

Dr. Fowler said studies show that those who commit crimes as juveniles have a low chance have committed the same crime again.

The prosecution on the other hand argued that Whirley knew right from wrong that night. Describing to the jury that Whirley's actions that night were aggressive, cold, calculated and callus.

Friends and Family of Whirley testified; telling the jury that Whirley is a person who is kind, polite, helpful and someone that loves animals.

Stating that Whirley's actions are out of his character and they know that Whirley can do good in the world.

A judge will make a final decision on the recommendations June 16 at the Cole County Courthouse.

Prosecutors called witnesses Monday as part of the sentencing phase of the trial, followed up by defense witnesses on Tuesday. All three of Kammerich's children made statements Monday during the sentencing phase of the trial, referring to Whirley as the bad guy.

Kammerich's children told the jury how much they miss their dad and doing things with him. They also said that their father's death makes it hard to sleep and night and gives them nightmares.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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