People convicted of felonies in Missouri but proven innocent by DNA evidence can be paid $100 for every day they were incarcerated after their conviction. People proven innocent by any other means get nothing. At least one Missouri lawmaker will try to change that in the 2023 legislative session.
Similar legislation was approved by two House committees in the session that ended in May by a combined vote of 24-1, but it was never brought up on the House floor for debate.
Sharp said the amount of harm done to a person and their family by a wrongful conviction goes well beyond the inability to have a job during their incarceration. It can involve difficulty finding work and housing after release, lingering issues that could require medical treatment and counseling, and relationship issues.
Missouri’s restitution statute has been under more scrutiny in recent years as more attention was paid to the case of Kevin Strickland. He was released from prison a year ago after serving 42 years of a life sentence for murder before being proven innocent, but because he was not exonerated based on DNA evidence he received no compensation from the State of Missouri.
Thursday was the first day legislators could prefile bills for the new session, which begins January 4.
The House has taken a vote members hope will help stop a potentially deadly form of celebration before it claims more lives and damages more property.
Kansas City Police report that guns were fired into the air more than 1,100 times late on New Year’s Eve and early on New Year’s Day. This was a decrease of about 500 rounds, according to the Department’s tracking system, but it still left two people wounded and 11 properties with damage; one of those, a police vehicle.
Kansas City has been the center of attention for “celebratory gunfire” for years, particularly since 2011. It was on Independence Day of that year that Blair Shanahan Lane was struck in the neck by a bullet fired into the air by a partier more than half a mile away. She died the next day.
The man who fired the bullet that killed Blair pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served 18 months in prison. House Bill 1696 would have allowed prosecutors to add time to his sentence; up to 7 years in prison if it was a third offense.
This was Reedy’s second year carrying the legislation. Last year it ran out of time in the Senate, in part, after a number of amendments were attached to it. This year’s version deals with only one other issue, and is therefore expected to have a much better chance at reaching the governor.
Another lawmaker who has worked on Blair’s Law is Kansas City Democrat Mark Sharp, who was glad to see the concerted effort to move it forward after previous attempts have ended in frustration.
Last Thursday Rowland announced he was resigning his House seat, having just been elected mayor of Independence. He left with optimism that more legislators would continue working to get Blair’s Law passed. He ended his comments to Reedy with an emotional plea, “Please get it done.”
Reedy’s proposal specifies that a person is guilty of the unlawful use of a weapon if they fire it, with criminal negligence, within or into the limits of a municipality. The first offense would be a class-A misdemeanor, with third and subsequent offences being class-D felonies.
The bill would also allow a firearm to be discharged from a stationary vehicle as authorized under the Missouri Wildlife Code. This provision is intended to allow farm and ranch owners to shoot animals that would threaten their livestock without facing a felony charge.
The House voted 131-0 to send that proposal to the Senate.
Missourians would have to have their vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices after their first drunk driving conviction, under a bill under consideration in the House.
Ignition interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting if they register too great of an alcohol content in a breath test. Current law requires a person to have a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated before restricting them to driving only vehicles equipped with such a device. Under House Bill 1680 a court must prohibit anyone convicted of an intoxicated driving offense from driving unequipped vehicles for at least six months.
Sharp’s bill has had a hearing before the House Committee on Crime Prevention, which is chaired by former Police Chief and Department of Public Safety Director Lane Roberts (R-Joplin). He expressed support for the idea.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving told the Committee that between 2006 and 2020, interlocks stopped 128,196 attempts to drive drunk in Missouri, with more than 11,000 of those incidents in 2020. DUI deaths reportedly decreased by 15% in states that enacted laws such as HB 1680.
The committee has not voted on Sharp’s legislation.
Missouri House legislation has led to a man securing a chance at parole from prison in the next year, about 69 years earlier than he expected.
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.
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.
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.
It was after that meeting that Schroer began pressing for Bostic to have a chance at parole.
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday at the Missouri Capitol there was a sense of new energy in the air. Christmas decorations were going up, the weather was that of a spring day, and most of all, new bills were dropping everywhere. December 1 is a day when Missourians get a first look at what legislators will consider as the filing of bills for the 2022 legislative session began.
Farmington Republican Dale Wright said it’s often better for legislation to be filed early, as that can give it a better chance of gaining traction early in the session and a better chance at passage. That means a lot of proposals are brought in on day 1.
Joplin Representative Lane Roberts (R) said he believes it’s important for each legislator to give consideration to not only their own bills, but what others are filing, and that includes those in the opposing party.
A museum telling an important story in the nation’s sports and cultural histories is featured on a new license plate that will soon be available to Missourians.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City began in a one-room office in 1990 and today is in a 10,000 square-foot home among the Museums at 18th & Vine in Kansas City. It is the only museum dedicated to the Negro Leagues, which originated in Kansas City in 1920 and offered people of color a chance to play professional baseball at a time when they were barred from playing in the major and minor leagues due to racism.
License plates bearing the Museum’s logo will soon be available. It will cost $15 more than a regular license plate registration, and applicants can opt to donate $10 to the museum. This is the result of legislation carried by Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City).
Sharp said the legacy of the Negro Leagues goes far beyond sports, having just as much to do with United States’ history and culture, and it meant a lot to him personally.
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.
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.
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.
Three Missouri lawmakers are leading a bipartisan effort to criminalize celebratory gunfire. Their bills would create what is called “Blair’s Law,” in honor of 11 year-old Blair Shanahan Lane, who was killed by an errant bullet fired during a 4th of July celebration in 2011.
Captain Kari Thompson is the Assistant Division Commander for the Homeland Security Division of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. She said the legislation would make a common sense change in the law.
Blair was hit in the neck by a bullet fired by a Kansas City man, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He served 18 months in prison. Had one of these measures been in place he could’ve faced additional prison time for the charge it would create.