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      Chief justice questions fairness of criminal code

      Chief Justice Mary Russell gave the State of the Judiciary to a joint session of the Missouri Legislature.

      Missouri's chief justice wants lawmakers to overhaul the state criminal code. In the annual State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, Judge Mary Russell discussed the need to revise missouri laws defining crimes and punishments.

      Russell indicated the code books are clutter with crimes almost never charged. And she questioned the fairness of certain punishments. "For example, if a person drives a vehicle while intoxicated and kills someone, that person may be punished by up to seven years in the state prison," says Russell. "But that's the same punishment for a person who writes a bad check for less than $500. Is that being smart on crime?"

      The last comprehensive overhaul occurred about 35 years ago. Judiciary committees in both the House and Senate heard testimony on reforming the code on Wednesday.