Area Teen on Trial in Missouri in Slaying of Classmate
A Granada Hills teenager faces life in prison with no chance of parole if convicted of killing a classmate at a Baptist boarding school for troubled youths in southeast Missouri.
Jury selection began Monday in the first-degree murder trial of Joseph Stanley Burris, 16, the second youth to stand trial in the death of William A. Futrelle II, 16, of Boca Raton, Fla.
Anthony Gene Rutherford, 19, of Siloam Springs, Ark., was convicted in a bench trial in May and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Burris, who was 15 at the time of the killing, has been certified to stand trial as an adult. Missouri law prohibits the state from seeking the death penalty for those who are younger than 16 at the time of the offense.
Futrelle was attacked on March 25, 1996, at the Mountain Park Baptist Church and Boarding Academy near Patterson, about 110 miles south of St. Louis. His throat was slashed with a pocket knife and he was beaten on the head, apparently to keep him from disclosing a bizarre plot to take over the school, authorities said.
Authorities said the boys killed Futrelle because they thought he would get in the way of their plans.
Burris pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of mental disease. “The primary [defense] emphasis will be on the [argument of] not guilty by mental disease,” said Burris’ lawyer, James Bowles of Piedmont.
The trial, which is being held in Pulaski County on a change of venue from Wayne County, is expected to continue through Friday.
Wayne County prosecutor Jon Kiser said he expects to call about a dozen witnesses. The evidence will be similar to that presented in May at Rutherford’s trial.
In that trial, Kiser relied heavily on a pocket knife believed to be the murder weapon and the videotaped confession that Rutherford gave to police. Rutherford admitted hitting Futrelle with a brick, but said it was Burris who cut Futrelle’s throat.
Bowles said he would probably call five to seven witnesses.
A third suspect, also from California, has been committed to the Missouri Division of Youth Services until age 18 on the charge of felony concealing a crime.
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