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Senate Sends Teen Life Without Parole Sentencing Bill To Governor

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

State Senators sent Gov. Mary Fallin new standards for sentencing teens to life without parole Wednesday.

The standards were requested by state district attorneys and are a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ban on mandatory life without parole sentences for teens.

Senate Bill 1221 requires judges to consider a teen’s immaturity, brain development, potential for rehabilitation and other factors before handing down a life without parole sentence.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 and 2016 that juvenile life without parole sentences had to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and they should be reserved for teens who can’t be rehabilitated.

Oklahoma doesn’t have  life without parole sentencing guidelines for teenagers, so past and future sentences are at risk of being thrown out.

Democrats in both chambers complained that the sentencing language was added late. Other opponents said legislators didn’t have a chance to vet the bill before the votes.

Supporters say the guidelines had been reviewed by attorneys and are necessary to address resentencing hearings for convicted murderers who could get lighter sentences because of the Supreme Court rulings.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Quinton Chandler worked at StateImpact Oklahoma from January 2018 to August 2021, focusing on criminal justice reporting.
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