In 2005, 14-year-old James Zarate helped his older brother Jonathan brutally kill and dismember their neighbor, 16-year-old Jennifer Parks of Randolph, New Jersey. The younger Zarate brother was tried as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to life plus 14 years. Jonathan Zarate was sentenced to life plus 24.
Back in April, James Zarate, now in his mid-20s, attempted to appeal his life sentence by arguing he should have been tried as a juvenile. His defense used the same old argument of his brain supposedly not being fully developed. While a teenage brain is obviously not fully developed, it’s developed enough to the point where they know the difference between right and wrong, and there was nothing more wrong than what the Zarate brothers did to Jennifer.
The brothers invited her over under the guise of watching TV, but when she went to their house they stabbed her to death, dismembered her body then stored her body in a large trunk for 24 hours before trying to dump her remains in the Passaic River. All because Jennifer reported to the school James Zarate was bullying her.
At any time between the time Jennifer was invited over their house until the time they were caught by police trying to dump her body, James Zarate could have told his parents, or police, or anyone. Instead he chose to remain complicit in Jennifer’s murder, up until the point where the Zarates almost got away with it.
Yesterday, a Superior Court judge upheld the original decision to try James Zarate as an adult, which basically upholds his life sentence. In 2016, New Jersey passed a law which said no one under the age of 15 could be charged as an adult. However, the judge ruled the 2016 law does not have to be retroactively applied.
In no way does James Zarate ever deserve to see the outside of a prison ever again. No matter how ‘undeveloped’ his brain might have been, his cold-blooded brutality was fully developed.
(Thanks to Lady Gray for her editorial assistance)