House action leads to chance at parole for man facing sentence of more than 2 centuries

      Missouri House legislation has led to a man securing a parole from prison in the next year, about 69 years earlier than he expected.

Bobby Bostic

      Bobby Bostic was sentenced to 241 years in prison after an armed robbery and carjacking in 1995.  Bostic, who was 16 at the time, was tried as an adult and would not have been eligible for parole until 2091, when he would be 112. 

      A House amendment that became law this year as part of Senate Bill 26 makes eligible to apply for parole anyone sentenced to 15 years or more while a juvenile.  The change gave Bostic a chance at a parole hearing after more than 20 years in prison.  That hearing was completed recently and Bostic was granted parole.  He will be released late next year.

      Bostic’s plight became an issue for the legislature in large part through the efforts of O’Fallon Republican Nick Schroer, who was glad to hear about the parole board’s decision.

      “I’m incredibly satisfied.  These are the types of things that kind of justify us being in [the Capitol].  We saw that there was this terrible issue where this minor who committed crimes that did not result in anybody being physically harmed, did not result in anyone being murdered, he’s locked away basically for the rest of his life and taxpayers are the ones paying for him to be there,” said Schroer.

      Schroer took up Bostic’s case in 2019, and then last year with his support, Kansas City representative Mark Sharp (D) sponsored the amendment to Senate Bill 26 that led to Bostic getting a parole hearing.

      “I’m just so happy, really on cloud nine that this decision came through the way it did.  It just shows that we can have some positive impacts here in the legislature.  Even if it only affects one person that’s good enough for me.  You hope it affects more and helps more people but this legislation did exactly what it was intended to do, and that was help Mr. Bobby Bostic.”

      Soon after hearing about Bostic’s case, Schroer met with him at Jefferson City Correctional Center.  He learned that while imprisoned Bostic has earned a GED, an associate’s degree, has completed courses from Adams State University and Missouri State University, and completed more than 30 rehabilitation classes and programs.  He has helped other inmates pursue their education, and has become a published author. 

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

It was after that meeting that Schroer began pressing for Bostic to have a chance at parole. 

      “I was amazed at all of the things that he had done, the rehabilitation that took place with him within our criminal justice system and it was one of my tasks to ensure that he was either granted clemency by the governor or that we could get a coalition together, get some sort of legislative fix to this issue,” said Schroer.

      That began with a letter to Governor Mike Parson (R) asking him to take executive action on Bostic’s case.  More than 100 legislators in both parties and both chambers signed that letter.

      Bostic was sentenced to 241 years in prison on a series of charges stemming from a 1995 incident in which he, then 16, and an 18 year-old robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy.  One victim was shot and sustained a minor wound.  The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman. 

      None of the victims of Bostic’s crimes opposed him being given a chance at parole.  Some testified that he had little involvement in the crimes and that the 18 year-old was the instigator.  While Bostic received more than two centuries in prison, the accomplice pleaded guilty in exchange for a 30-year sentence.   

Retired Circuit Judge Evelyn Baker, who handed down Bostic’s sentence, has become one of the most ardent supporters of his parole and represented him at the hearing.

      Bostic is not expected to be released until late next year.  Sharp said he will spend much of the time until then preparing to return to freedom after 20 years behind bars.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Now the hard work really begins for Bobby Bostic.  How do we get him back into civilization?  How do we get him a job?  How do we get him back on his feet?  Just being released really isn’t enough, so we have to make sure that he has all the tools so he can be successful upon his release,” said Sharp.

      Roughly 100 others in Missouri’s prison system could have a chance at parole under the language that helped Bostic.  Schroer said for those and others getting out of prison, there are people throughout the state who want to help them start over.

      “If anybody is willing, and I know that there are several employers in St. Charles County and around the area that have taken an interest in [Bobby Bostic’s] case and many others like him, who are hiring people fresh out of the criminal justice system that want to turn their lives around, so any of the readers that are grouped in there, that do have opportunities for people with a criminal record, I urge them to reach out to [lawmakers] so we can at least put them in contact with people like Bobby.”

      Other portions of Senate Bill 26 have led to a court challenge that could see everything in it struck down.  Sharp and Schroer say they aren’t sure what it would mean for Bostic’s case should that happen, but say they will be watching developments and remain committed to helping Bostic get a chance at freedom.

House language will allow chance at parole for Bostic, others sentenced as juveniles to long terms

      A House amendment that will give some juvenile offenders in Missouri a chance at parole will become effective later this month.  The provision was driven by the case of a man sentenced to 241 years in prison when he was 16.

Bobby Bostic

      The amendment was signed into law as part of Senate Bill 26.  It would make anyone sentenced while a juvenile eligible for parole after serving 15 years of any sentence.  It doesn’t apply to convictions for first-degree or capital murder.

      Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) sponsored the amendment, which he stresses does not automatically grant freedom to any offender.

      “Ultimately it falls into the hands of the Parole Board.  It’s up to their discretion.  Every juvenile that’s in the system currently has a different criteria they have to meet obviously.  I think it’s our duty to trust the Parole Board to do their job, and if anybody can be rehabilitated I do believe that we should put that faith into our youth.  I trust them far more than someone else to be rehabilitated in the correctional facilities,” said Sharp.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Sharp and numerous other lawmakers in both parties think Bobby Bostic has been rehabilitated.  In 1995, Bostic and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy.  He shot one victim, who sustained a minor wound.  The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman.  He was sentenced for 18 crimes and would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.

      None of the victims of Bostic’s crimes oppose him being given a chance at parole.  The judge who sentenced him said that sentence was disproportionately harsh, and she favors giving him a chance at freedom.  

      O’Fallon Republican representative Nick Schroer has been among the leaders of the effort to help Bostic.  He and others say that is because Bostic has clearly reformed.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “He’s done so much while he’s been behind bars,” said Schroer.  “Getting rehabilitated to the point of taking it upon himself paying for different college classes, getting several different degrees, writing many books, and trying to work with communities in need within our state so juveniles that might have been on the same path he was won’t make that same decision … I believe that is what we can all agree our criminal justice system is there for.”

      Sharp said it felt meaningful to pass this legislation, especially knowing that there are more than 100 more people in Missouri’s correctional facilities in similar situations.

      “This provision just allows them to be eligible for parole, and I think that for a lot of these folks including Mr. Bobby Bostic, just being eligible will go a long way,” said Sharp.

      The language becomes effective on August 28.

VIDEO: Legislation would give chance at parole to man serving 241 years in prison and others like him

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.

Judge Evelyn Baker and Representatives Nick Schroer and Barbara Washington talk about a legislative effort to give a chance at parole to Bobby Bostic, who Baker sentenced to 241 years in prison in 1995. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

“2201 fixes the technicality that prevents Bobby and others like him in this situation the ability to obtain the relief that the Supreme Court envisioned [in that 2010 ruling],” said Schroer.

Kansas City representative Barbara Washington (D) has also spearheaded this effort and is a cosponsor of HB 2201.  She said it could help others besides Bostic.

“We must think about what we’re doing with our juveniles.  We must understand that a 16 year-old who grew up in Bobby’s situation; who didn’t have anyone to look up to, who didn’t have a community that made sure he went to school, didn’t have a mentor to make sure that he got a job, who didn’t have teachers who looked at him as a good kid that was going down the wrong road.  It is important and imperative that we pass House Bill 2201 so that we make sure that no other juveniles suffer this fate,” said Washington.

Judge Evelyn Baker handed Bobby his 241-year sentence and now wants to see him given a chance at freedom.

“He’s written books, he writes poetry, he is trying to help as many people as he can in a confined environment.  He can do so much more to help others if we let him out.  I think justice cries for him to be released,” said Judge Baker.  “We talk about rehabilitation.  He is the epitome of a rehabilitated child who became a man in the true sense of the word ‘man.’”

Schroer said he does not know how many other people in situations like Bostic’s are in Missouri prisons and might benefit from passage of this bill, but he does believe there are others.

“This one case is the tip of the spear, so to speak, where we now see there are these technical issues and other issues preventing people from getting the relief when they are fully rehabilitated, so I think that we need to go forward with House Bill 2201,” said Schroer.

He said from the standpoint of being fiscally conservative, the more people who have been rehabilitated and therefore can be released from Missouri prisons, the better for the state and its economy.

“We are wasting more money locking people up that could be contributing to society as solid Missourians once again,” said Schroer.

Schroer is hopeful his bill will be assigned to a committee and receive a hearing soon.

Earlier stories:

Judge who sentenced man to 241 years meets with lawmakers seeking his clemency

State lawmakers to ask governor for clemency for man sentenced as teen to 241 years

Judge who sentenced man to 241 years meets with lawmakers seeking his clemency

A judge who sentenced a man to more than two centuries in prison now says that man deserves to be freed.  Judge Evelyn Baker is joined by numerous House members and others lobbying for clemency for Bobby Bostic.

Judge Evelyn Baker (retired) (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I will talk to anybody and everyone who is in a position to help undo an injustice,” said Judge Baker.

Baker sentenced Bostic to 241 years in prison after a string of crimes in 1995.  Now 40, Bostic would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.

“We had that whole concept of the violent predator juveniles.  What we didn’t have was the knowledge from science in terms of brain development in adolescents,” said Baker of when she sentenced Bostic.  “The law said he is a certified juvenile, therefore can be treated as an adult.  Bobby was far from being an adult.  He was a 16-year-old kid and I treated him as if he were a hardened adult criminal.  I know now that was wrong.”

Judge Baker traveled this week to Jefferson City to meet with Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), who earlier this year began gathering lawmakers’ signatures on a letter asking Governor Mike Parson (R) to grant clemency to Bostic.  About 50 legislators have signed that letter and Schroer said more have committed to, but he put the effort on hold while the clemency process is advancing.

Bostic was 16 in 1995 when he and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy.  He shot one victim who sustained a minor wound.  The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman.

Baker said Bostic has turned his life around in prison.  He obtained his G.E.D. and a paralegal diploma, took a victim advocate course, and completed a course in non-profit management and grantsmanship.  He’s written four non-fiction books and 8 books of poetry.

Bobby Bostic has told Judge Baker and Rep. Schroer there are others in prison who deserve to have clemency considered.

“He’s turned into a responsible young man who accepts full responsibility for his actions.  He doesn’t minimize what happened.  He doesn’t excuse what happened,” said Baker.  “My experience as a judge has always been that people who accept full responsibility, make no excuses for their actions, express true remorse … don’t come back into the system again, and that’s Bobby.”

Schroer and Baker both believe that being sent to prison was actually a benefit to Bostic, who himself told the judge he expected to be dead in his early 20s.

“God is working miracles.  It if wasn’t for the judge cracking down and being as hard as she was on Bobby, it wouldn’t have probably opened his eyes to create the man that he is today,” said Schroer.  “If she would’ve been soft on him he might’ve been back out on the street to commit more crimes and actually become a more hardened criminal.”

Schroer has talked to the governor and First Lady Teresa Parson about Bostic’s case and said they are both receptive.  He also hopes that in this effort to see Bostic be granted clemency, it will open doors for others in Missouri’s prisons who have similar arguments to be made.

“Bobby’s not the only Bobby.  There are Bobbys and Bobbetts not only in the Missouri Department of Corrections but all throughout this country,” said Baker.

Representative Nick Schroer and Judge Evelyn Baker (retired) (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Schroer said he learned that the governor’s office has a stack of clemency requests that date back to the administration of Governor Bob Holden (D), who left the office in 2005.  He hopes to see those examined.

“The Parson administration has indicated that they were taking a fresh look at all of those petitions and I know that they are still doing it right now … but whether we need to form a task force or a committee to help expedite that process, I’m wide open to forming something like that,” said Schroer.

“My time up here is to serve the people of Missouri, and what better way to serve the people than look at their pocketbooks, look where the money’s going, and look at the people that have actually been placed under the control of the state to see how we can actually get them out [to] become a productive member of society,” said Schroer.

Judge Baker said she has corresponded with Bostic regularly and she plans to meet with him in prison.

Schroer said it could be a couple of months before he submits legislators’ signatures with the letter urging Governor Parson to grant clemency to Bostic, while other parts of that effort move forward.

State lawmakers to ask governor for clemency for man sentenced as teen to 241 years

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 currently in the Jefferson City Correctional Center serving a 214 sentence for crimes he committed in one night in 1995. (photo supplied by Representative Nick Schroer)

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.

“When you look at the cases from around that time – the late ‘90s – there are murderers that are already back out on our streets that were sent [to prison],” said Representative Nick Schroer.

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.

Representative Nick Schroer (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communciations)

“I think he should do time for the mistakes that he made and the choices that he’s made, but to put him there on a taxpayer dime for 241 years I think is unjust,” said Schroer.

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.

“That’s all he has.  That’s the only thing he has.  The Supreme Court did deny his brief.  They denied to hear the case on the U.S. Supreme Court level.  I believe he’s had some appeals that have been denied on the state court level, and so at this point this is the only opportunity that this young man has had,” said Washington.  “He’s lost his whole life for 24 years.  Had he not been tried in adult court he probably would’ve been out at 25.”

Schroer and Washington say Bostic has worked to better himself during his time in prison.

“I’m not saying he’s a model prisoner – I don’t know his whole record – but what I do know is that he’s tried to take advantage of the opportunities that you can take in prison,” said Washington.  “He didn’t even have a high school diploma or GED when he went in.  He has received a GED and he’s soon to be completing his associate degree.”

Representative Barbara Washington (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Schroer said Bostic’s efforts to get an education show he’s on the right path, and said some of his actions on the night of his crimes showed at least some of his thoughts were on the right path.

“The female victim indicated that while Bobby was driving, the 18-year-old, while he was trying to find her money, groped her and then threatened to rape her, but it was the 16-year-old Bobby Bostic … that stopped any rape from occurring and got her out of the car,” said Schroer.

“It’s interesting to note,” Washington adds, “that he was 16, his co-defendant was 18, and his co-defendant will be up for parole next year.”

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.

“He indicated that we should be using our prisons to house the most serious – the criminals that we, as a society, are afraid of, not the ones that we’re mad at,” said Schroer.  “I think listening to our chief justice it’s time that we give this man a second chance.”

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.