Special session will decide maximum sentence for juveniles - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Special session will decide maximum sentence for juveniles

Posted: Updated:

Amarillo, TX - Sentencing a juvenile to life without parole is unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.  And now Texas lawmakers are deciding how to change state law to abide by federal law.

Last year, SCOTUS ruled life without parole for someone under the age of 18 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and is therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

So Texas, along with several other states, is tweaking its own statutes to stay within federal guidelines.  One of the items on the table in Austin in this year's special session is Senate Bill 23, which would set the maximum sentence for a juvenile offender at life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

Under current state law, minors convicted of a capital offense can be sentenced to life in prison, but must be eligible for parole.  But in Texas, 17 year-olds can be tried as adults, which creates a legal gray area for prosecutors.

"We need a punishment range, so obviously the statute is important for us to have," explains 47th District Attorney Randall Sims.  "The U.S. Supreme Court, several years ago now, also ruled that we could not execute a 17 year-old. So they've limited the punishments on 17 year-olds here twice now."

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the bill, and it's scheduled to be heard by the full senate tomorrow.

If you'd like to see an analysis of the bill or see what else is on the agenda in this year's special session, you'll find that  at the links attached to this story.

  • Local HeadlinesMore>>

  • Officials Working Accident on Interstate 10 in Pecos County

    Officials Working Accident on Interstate 10 in Pecos County

    Officials are on the scene of an accident in Pecos County. NewsWest 9 has learned that the accident is located near mile marker 241 on Interstate 10. We’re told a tractor trailer rig was on fire.
    Officials are on the scene of an accident in Pecos County. NewsWest 9 has learned that the accident is located near mile marker 241 on Interstate 10. We’re told a tractor trailer rig was on fire.
  • Child Safe After Climbing Into Stuffed Animal Game at Bowling Alley in Nebraska

    Child Safe After Climbing Into Stuffed Animal Game at Bowling Alley in Nebraska

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a stuffed animal claw crane machine at a bowling alley in Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday. Monday evening, Curious George wasn't the only curiosity in a vending machine at Madsen’s Bowling and Billiards. There was a child inside the Bear Claw machine.
    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a stuffed animal claw crane machine at a bowling alley in Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday. Monday evening, Curious George wasn't the only curiosity in a vending machine at Madsen’s Bowling and Billiards. There was a child inside the Bear Claw machine.
  • Man Charged With Marathon Hoax Appears in Court

    Man Charged With Marathon Hoax Appears in Court

    The mother of a man arrested near the Boston Marathon finish line carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker on the anniversary of the bombings says her son has a mental disorder. Joie Edson tells The Associated Press her son Kevin "Kayvon" Edson has bipolar disorder.
    The mother of a man arrested near the Boston Marathon finish line carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker on the anniversary of the bombings says her son has a mental disorder. Joie Edson tells The Associated Press her son Kevin "Kayvon" Edson has bipolar disorder.