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July 5, 2013

A year later, Texas still working through its response to Miller

This New York Times article, headlined "Young Killers in Texas Await Change in Mandatory Life Sentences," reports on the struggles that the Lone Star State has had in fuguring out just how to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling last year in Miller v. Alabama.  Here are excerpts:

[Scottie] Forcey was convicted in 2009 of fatally shooting Karen Burke, a 52-year-old Alvarado convenience store clerk. He is the youngest of 23 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates who received mandatory sentences of life without parole for committing capital murder when they were younger than 18.

Now, as legislators work to comply with a United States Supreme Court ruling, those inmates could become eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

The justices ruled last year that sentences of life without parole for 17-year-old murderers violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Either the courts or Gov. Rick Perry could change such sentences in Texas. But both are waiting for legislators to decide what punishment juveniles like Mr. Forcey should face. Lawmakers, who failed to pass legislation in two sessions this year, are trying now for a third time.

In Texas, 17-year-olds have faced the same sentencing options as adults convicted of capital murder: the death penalty or life without parole. In 2005, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for anyone under 18, deciding that the less-developed brains of juveniles rendered them less culpable. That left only life without parole as the punishment for 17-year-olds.

After the court’s decision last year, in Miller v. Alabama, prosecutors said they had no sentencing options for 17-year-old killers. They asked lawmakers to make them subject to the same punishment Texas law requires for 14- to 16-year-old capital murderers: life with parole eligibility after 40 years.

Lance Long, a Harris County assistant district attorney, recently told lawmakers that until they decided on a sentencing option, such murder trials were being delayed across Texas. “None of these cases are anything but very, very, very serious,” Mr. Long said.

The Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee has approved a bill that would require a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 40 years. The House, however, has indicated it wants to give juries the option to sentence 17-year-olds to life without parole if other factors — like evidence of abuse or mental illness — are considered. In previous sessions this year, both chambers approved bills addressing the sentencing question, but time ran out before they could get final approval.

Mr. Perry has told prosecutors that when lawmakers decided on a new sentencing bill, he would consider recommending commutation for inmates like Mr. Forcey who were sentenced under the old law. “It really only seems fair and just,” said Justin Wood, the legislative liaison for the Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston.

July 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Because Miller fails to meet Daubert standards, because it imposes the feelings of know nothing Washington foppish lawyers over the investigative ability of a legialture, and the wisdom of the crowd effect of a legislature, because it violates the aim of government, namely to protect crime victims, this Miller decision should considered to be void. Not voidable, void. The judicial review activity of the Supreme Court was just taken by the Court on the advice of the Royalist toady and total slime ball, Sir Edward Coke, a Cambridge indoctrinated member of the hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession. Judicial review is explicitly prohibited by Article I Section 1.

If the Supreme Court then seeks to impose its sick, Twilight Zone, incorrect thinking, let it send federal thugs to harass high state officials. These should be greeted with handcuffs and stays in state prison as threatening government officials. See Texas 36.03, (a). Section (c) does exempt members of governing bodies, but let them tell that to the judge, and let them prove the meaning of "members of government" applies to federal thugs, and not to Texas government officials.

If they send the military, then let that be a Tahrir Square moment for the USA.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 5, 2013 10:11:54 PM

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