On Monday the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee made drastic changes to a Senate bill that provided a sentencing scheme for juveniles who commit first degree murder. As SB 200, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), came from the Senate, juveniles who commit first degree murder could have been sentenced to 35 or 50 years, depending on their age. The House Committee rejected that proposal and set the term of years from 25 to 40 years, regardless of age. The House Committee also eliminated the option of life without parole in the Senate version.
Numerous individuals and organizations, including the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and the Missouri Catholic Conference, spoke in opposition to the Senate version of SB 200 at the House hearing. Opponents were quick to note that juveniles are different than adults in their thought processes and their culpability. Other opponents expressed concern that the Senate version was likely unconstitutional based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
A special thanks to Rep. Robert Cornejo (R-St. Peters) who offered the House amendment with the more reasonable sentencing structure. The MCC believes the House proposal is more in line with Catholic teaching on restorative justice as it allows youth who are rehabilitated a meaningful second chance at life.
Later in the week the House Select Committee on Judiciary reaffirmed the House proposal. The bill now goes on the House Calendar for debate. With only one week remaining in the session, this issue may not get resolved before the session ends.
Posted: May 8, 2015