An effort by state legislators to give a chance at parole to a man sentenced to 241 years in prison has led to a broader effort to offer parole to all Missouri inmates facing similar situations.
Bobby Bostic committed a series of crimes in 1995 when he was 16 and was given a series of consecutive sentences. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling that people under 18 who did not kill anyone could not be sentenced to life without parole doesn’t apply to him because he was not sentenced to life. He would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112. All judicial avenues to offer Bostic an earlier release have been exhausted.
Last year more than 100 state lawmakers signed a letter to Governor Mike Parson (R) asking him to consider Bostic’s petition for clemency. They joined those victimized in Bostic’s crimes and the judge who sentenced him in saying Bostic has reformed himself, and deserves a chance at parole.
O’Fallon representative Nick Schroer (R) has worked to bring attention to Bostic’s situation and has led the effort to drum up support. He said he knows that the Parson administration is sifting through thousands of clemency requests. While that process continues, he has filed House Bill 2201, which aims to give people sentenced to long terms and life as a juvenile a chance at parole.
The House has voted to ensure that Missouri inmates who are at least 65 years old get a chance at parole.
House Bill 352 would apply to a small number of inmates who have served at least 30 years of a sentence, who have no prior violent felony convictions, are not convicted sex offenders, and are serving a sentence of life without parole with a 50-year minimum.
Democrats strongly supported the bill. Representative Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City) said just as modern DNA has proven some people innocent in old cases, this legislation reflects how the state’s law has changed to eliminate overly harsh prison terms.
Former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts (R-Joplin) said sentences of life without parole are often offered as an alternative to the death sentence in particularly egregious crimes. That is generally after the victim’s family has agreed to accept that as an outcome.
Representative Steve Butz’s (D-St. Louis) sister was raped and murdered about 10 years ago in Washington State. He described to his colleagues having to identify her body, having to wait several days before her body was released to be buried, and going through the court trial.
He said her killer is serving the same kind of sentence as the people this bill would affect.
HB 352 is part of a larger, overall focus on criminal justice reform that is a bipartisan priority this year. Its language has been included in a broad reform package, House Committee Bill 2. That bill is still before a House committee.
An inmate receiving a parole hearing under this bill must be found by the parole board to have met certain criteria to be eligible for parole. He or she must have a record of good conduct while in prison; must have demonstrated rehabilitation; must have an institutional risk factor score of no more than one and a mental health score of no more than three; and must have a workable parole plan that includes the support of family and community.
An offender who is not granted parole would be reconsidered every two years.
With a vote of 90-60, HB 352 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
A growing body of Missouri legislators wants to ask Governor Mike Parson (R) to act on behalf of a man in state prison with a sentence that they feel far exceeds his crimes.
Bobby Bostic is serving a sentence of 241 years in prison. Now 40, he would be eligible for parole at the age of 112. Appeals filed on his behalf have been denied, even one on the grounds that the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that people under 18 who didn’t kill anyone couldn’t be sentenced to life without parole. That didn’t apply to Bostic because he wasn’t sentenced to life; he was sentenced for 18 crimes.
Bostic was 16 in 1995 when he and an 18-year-old accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents for the needy. Each man shot a victim, leaving one slightly injured. The pair carjacked another woman and put a gun to her head. The accomplice robbed and groped her before she was let go.
Schroer, an O’Fallon Republican, says he happened upon the case when someone posted an old story about Bostic on Twitter. He sent Bostic a letter and the two began talking, and shortly thereafter Schroer and other representatives met with Bostic at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. It was then that Schroer decided he wanted to see the man given a chance at freedom.
One of the lawmakers that joined Schroer in that visit to JCCC is Representative Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City). She came to the same conclusion – that the sentence was too harsh. She and Schroer agreed to work with their respective parties to get as many lawmakers as possible to sign a letter to Governor Parson asking for clemency for Bostic.
The judge who handed Bostic his sentence has said publicly that she now regrets, “deeply,” that decision, and wants to meet with Bostic. Schroer believes something another judge – Missouri’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fischer – said in his State of the Judiciary Address this week also applies.
By Thursday afternoon around 15 lawmakers had signed on to the letter started by Representatives Schroer and Washington – lawmakers from both parties and from both the House and Senate, with more having agreed to sign it.
The Missouri House voted to override the governor’s vetoes of four items in the state operating budget that became law in July. The Senate has opted not to take up those items for consideration, so the governor’s vetoes will stand.
The House voted to override Governor Mike Parson’s (R) vetoes on line-items that support juvenile advocacy units in the Kansas City and St. Louis offices of the state public defender; time-critical centers for heart attack and stroke patients in Missouri hospitals; independent reviews by the Office of Child Advocate of local offices that serve troubled youths; and the oversight of grants to organizations that serve the deaf and blind. The four items totaled more than $785,000.
House budget leaders said those items will be brought up for consideration when the legislature meets again in January, for the start of its regular session.
The House voted only on five budget items during its annual veto session, which began and ended Wednesday. On the fifth budget item, $50,000 for grants to law enforcement agencies for the purchase of tourniquets for officers, the House fell short of the constitutional majority needed for an override.
Money for inspections of state-certified heart attack and stroke trauma centers
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said after the governor vetoed money to fund inspections and certification of time-critical trauma centers for heart attack and stroke patients, his administration then said those inspections would be conducted anyway. Fitzpatrick said he wants to see the inspections continue, but for them to be funded by pulling money from parts of the budget not intended for them violates the role of the legislature in the budget process.
Money for Office of Child Advocate review of local abuse investigations
$100,000 for the Office of Child Advocate would pay for two people that St. Charles Republican Kurt Bahr said would conduct a thorough review of how child abuses cases are processed. He said the office needs those two additional staff members to keep up with that extra work.
Money for oversight of grants to organizations serving Missouri’s deaf and blind
The $45,000 for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would pay for a person to oversee grants to organizations serving the deaf and blind. That position was created as part of House Bill 1696 passed in 2016, which was sponsored by Representative Lyle Rowland (R-Cedarcreek). He said those grants have been fully funded for the past two years.
Money for public defenders for juveniles in Kansas City and St. Louis
Fitzpatrick said the $487,000 for juvenile advocacy units in the St. Louis and Kansas City offices of the public defender system would ensure that the constitutional right to counsel for juveniles in those regions would be met.