After a years-long stalemate on the issue, an agreement on how to sentence juveniles who commit first degree murder came to speedy resolution this week. Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield), sponsor of SB 590, and Rep. Robert Cornejo (R-St. Peters), House handler of the bill, ironed out the final details after lengthy negotiations between prosecutors, defense attorneys and various advocate groups.
Under the final version of SB 590, juveniles below the age of 18 could be sentenced with three options: a defined sentence of between 30-40 years, life imprisonment with eligibility for parole, or life without parole (LWOP). If LWOP is being sought, a process must be followed with the court and various factors considered. Based on Supreme Court rulings the bill also allows juveniles previously sentenced to LWOP to be eligible for review by the parole board after serving 25 years.
With the clock ticking, Rep. Cornejo brought the bill up for debate in the House and after discussion the bill was approved by a vote of 145-1. The attention then turned to the Senate that brought the bill up for debate in a matter of hours. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 32-0. The bill now heads to Governor Nixon.
With the passage of SB 590, the issue of juvenile sentencing is resolved. While neither side got everything they wanted, the process showed a spirit of cooperation in solving a difficult situation.