20 October 2005

Life in Prison For Kids.

Life in prison without possibility of parole sentences for children are one of the next frontiers in an effort to develop a less barbaric criminal justice system. The U.S. Supreme Court has already decided that it is never appropriate to execute someone for a crime committed as a minor, or for a crime committed while someone is retarded.

Littwin, at the Rocky, does a solid job of conveying the insanity of letting rouge prosecutors like Colleen Truden, who care more about political gain than justice (she will face a recall election in December that is almost certain to succeed in December), unilaterally decide to try a 14 year old who killed a friend in one of those classic kids playing with guns situations, for first degree murder, which has a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. "In the last session of the legislature, state Rep. Lynn Hefley tried to change the law. She wanted the possibility of parole for young killers." In case you didn't know, she is the wife of our conservative Republican member of Congress from the 4th Congressional District, which includes Colorado Springs.

This particular kid has some hope. The jury will understand the gravity of the sentence this kid is facing (unlike so many federal drug cases where the sentences are far longer than common sense would expect). The testimony regarding the kid's state of mind comes from a 13 year old who has changed his story seven times and as a result will likely be viewed with suspicion by a jury. There is a real chance that the DA who takes office after Truden is recalled will will enter into a more reasonable plea bargain with the kid or move the case back to juvenile court where it belongs. But, thousands of people are currently serving life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles, despite a solid majority in public opinion polls who think that this is inappropriate. Some legal background is here.

Keeping a thirty year old in prison for forty years for a heinous crime simply makes more sense than keeping a fourteen year old in prison for sixty years for a superficially similar crime. Fourteen year olds are capable of reforming. And, those who serve long sentences for murder before being released are already the least likely to reoffend in any way.

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