The state senate is considering a change in Missouri’s sentencing laws in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juveniles cannot be sentenced to death, and that life without parole cannot be the only possible sentence for them in first-degree murder cases.
Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) said that means Missouri’s sentencing laws have been unconstitutional since that ruling.
“The states must also offer courts a less severe sentencing option for the jury to choose between the two. Despite this ruling, life in prison is still the only option offered by Missouri courts,” said Dixon.
He’s proposing to allow a 35-year or life without parole sentence for those under 16 and a 50 year or life without parole sentence for those 16 and 17.
“The court indicated that states could pursue re-sentencing or offer parole to former juvenile offenders currently serving life sentence without the option of parole,” said Dixon. “Senate bill 590 is intended to put Missouri in line with federal law without letting those convicted of murder go free.”
Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) says Dixon’s proposed sentences would be too long. He favors 20 years for those under 16 and 30 years for those 16 and 17.
Officials at the Office of the State Public Defender say there are 84 juveniles currently serving life without parole.