Khiry Summers didn't fire the fatal shot - but his sentence Wednesday to 23 years in prison was the longest issued among the three men convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action for the 2012 robbery and killing of a Columbia drug dealer.
A Cole County jury in July convicted Summers, now 21, for his role in the April 22, 2012, robbery that ended in the death of Keith Mosely, 34.
Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ordered Summers to serve 20-year sentences on the murder and robbery charges, to be served together, followed by a three-year sentence for the armed criminal action charge.
Summers must serve at least 85 percent of the 20 years, or 17 years.
The three years for armed criminal action doesn't include any early release opportunity.
"All cases throughout the country that involve murders which occur in the midst of, near to or around a drug deal become harder to prove to a jury," Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said after the sentencing hearing.
"When jurors are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, and they return verdicts of guilty, then hopefully communities where (drug-related murder) occurs will be safer."
A Cole County grand jury indicted Summers, Tracy Session and Brandon Chase last year on identical charges in the Mosely murder.
Prosecutors accused Chase of masterminding a robbery to steal marijuana instead of paying for it.
But, during the course of that robbery, Session, now 26, fired a shot that hit Mosely in the chest. He died several hours later at University Hospital, Columbia.
Session pleaded guilty to the charges last Nov. 7, and Joyce sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
After a mistrial, a second jury this summer convicted Chase, now 30, of all three charges, and Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Officials last year thought Summers was close to a plea agreement in the case, but he balked last November and his original attorney, Tina M. Crow Halcomb, withdrew from the case.
Summers' trial in July came after Chase had been convicted by a different jury, but before Chase was sentenced.
Summers testified he was outside a Buena Vista Street apartment when he heard arguing and, fearing "for his friend's life," he took one step into the apartment and fired three times into the floor to help save Chase and to scare Mosely into turning over the marijuana.
Richardson asked for 25-year sentences for Summers' conviction.
"But for this defendant firing his shots, triggered Mr. Session to fire the fatal shot, Mr. Mosely might still be alive," Richardson said.
In addition, the prosecutor argued, Summers had shown no remorse for his role in the crime.
But Public Defender David Wallis asked Joyce to impose a 10-year sentence, like Green gave Chase.
"He went with his attorney and gave a confession," Wallis said. "He said he was sorry."
Wallis also argued Summers "easily could have shot anyone, but he fired into the floor just to scare Mosely."
Summers' mother, Rosie Hill, told Joyce that Summers had "no criminal record at all" before being charged in the Mosely case.
She asked Joyce for a "lesser" sentence so that Summers could get home more quickly to his daughter, 4, and son, 1.
"He is a good dad," Hill said.
Wallis also argued for a lesser sentence because others had helped set up the drug buy that Chase wanted to turn into a robbery - and they had not been charged.
Earlier report, posted at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013:
Khiry Summers was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Wednesday, after a jury in July found him guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.
Summers, now 21, was convicted for his role in the April 22, 2012, robbery of marijuana that ended in the killing of Columbia drug dealer Keith Mosely, 34.
With the help of his attorney, Summers turned himself in to Jefferson City police nine days after Mosely's death.
A Cole County grand jury indicted Summers, Tracy Session and Brandon Chase on identical charges of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.
Prosecutors accused Chase of masterminding a robbery, to steal marijuana instead of paying for it.
During the course of that robbery, Session, now 26, fired a shot that hit Mosely in the chest, and Mosely died later at University Hospital, Columbia.
Session pleaded guilty to the charges last Nov. 7, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which he's serving at the Southeast Correctional Center, Charleston.
A jury convicted Chase, now 30, in the case, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The murder ended what had been planned as an "easy robbery," with Summers getting a gun out of his brother's car and, wearing dark clothes and a mask to hide at least part of his face, using that weapon to threaten Mosely so he would turn over the drugs.
But, when Mosely gave up the marijuana, Summers fired three shots into the floor to scare Mosely, before Session fired the fatal shot through the doorway.
Summers spent most of Saturday, April 21, "at his girlfriend's house on Elizabeth Street (when) he decided he needed to get some marijuana to smoke."
Summers talked with Chase, who already had been in contact with Brent Slaughter from Columbia about getting some of the drug.
Summers was outside the apartment when he heard arguing and, fearing "for his friend's life, he took one step into the apartment and fired three times into the ground" to help save Chase.
Then both Chase and Summers than ran from the apartment "about a minute" before Session fired the fatal shot.
After the shooting, Summers went back to his girlfriend's, and they drove to Illinois the next day.