Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wyoming law to make all juvenile killers eligible for parole

A bill to bring Wyoming law into compliance with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Miller v. Alabama, that outlawed mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers cleared its first hearing last week, according to The Associated Press.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill that would change Wyoming law so that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.

Existing Wyoming law leaves judges only a choice between sentencing juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to life, or life without the possibility of parole. The only way out of prison for someone serving a basic life sentence is for the governor to commute the sentence or grant a pardon, reports the AP.

Miller left open the possibility that judges could still impose life sentences on juvenile killers as long as they also considered alternative sentences. For instance, new legislation in Pennsylvania provides that a judge could sentence a juvenile 15 years of age and older to 35 years or life.  A juvenile 14 years of age or younger 25 years or life.

Wyoming proposed legislation is different. It would specify that all juveniles sentenced for first-degree murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years, although the parole board would have the discretion to refuse parole.

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