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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — A divided North Carolina appeals court panel says a life sentence given in the 1970s to a teenager for second-degree burglary is not cruel and unusual punishment, meaning he must remain behind bars.

The Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a trial judge’s 2012 decision to reduce Larry Stubbs’s sentence and release him. Stubbs has been in prison for most of the last 40 years for a crime committed at age 17.

State attorneys appealed. Court of Appeals Judge Wanda Bryant ruled that while Stubbs’s sentence looks severe today, it does not fit the constitutional definition of cruel and unusual. The ruling could be appealed.

State law at the time allowed for possible parole after 10 years. Stubbs was paroled in 2008 but returned to prison following a DWI conviction.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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