Senate Debates Long Term Sentences for Youth

This week the Senate debated SB 790 which would create a tiered sentencing structure of 35-50 years for youth below the age of 18 who commit first degree murder.  Sponsored by Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), the bill addresses a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youth.  Because Missouri law currently only allows for LWOP sentences in these juvenile cases, lawmakers need to come up with an alternative sentence.

In debating the bill Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) offered an amendment to change the bill to allow for a life sentence with the possibility of parole.  This would have resulted in shorter sentences than are currently in the bill.  The amendment failed. The Senate then accepted an amendment by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) that removed from the bill a hearing for the juvenile that would evaluate aggravating and mitigating factors in his case to help determine the sentence.

When Senator Dan Brown (R-Rolla) offered an amendment to limit the appeals process in death cases involving kidnapping, a point of ordered was raised and the bill was put on the informal calendar without a vote taken.

The MCC opposes the current form of SB 790 because we do not believe that it follows the intent of the Supreme Court decision which called for allowing juvenile offenders a “meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”
Posted: March 28, 2104

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