75 Judges, Prosecutors, Probation, Corrections, and Law Enforcement Leaders Call on Supreme Court to Reject 241-Year Sentence for Juvenile
WASHINGTON — Seventy-five criminal justice leaders — including former U.S. Solicitors General Kenneth Starr and Donald Verrilli, former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, and former FBI Director William Webster — are urging the Supreme Court to overturn a 241-year prison sentence that a Missouri court imposed on Bobby Bostic for two armed robberies he committed as a 16-year-old.
In a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief filed today, these leading officials joined in supporting Mr. Bostic’s petition to the Supreme Court, challenging his sentence — under which he is not eligible for parole until age 112. The brief, the second filing of its kind (the first is available here) from national law enforcement and criminal justice leaders, argues that the sentence is a violation of Mr. Bostic’s rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Graham v. Florida, which held that juvenile offenders convicted of non-homicide crimes must have a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. Mr. Bostic’s petition was filed with the Supreme Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the national ACLU.
“The Eighth Amendment requires our criminal justice system to account for the unassailable reality that children are different — an insight the Supreme Court has also recognized, and one which is supported by the ever-growing scientific literature regarding juvenile brain development,” said Miriam Aroni Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution and a signatory on the brief. “Recognizing that children have a unique capacity for rehabilitation and should be sentenced accordingly, with an opportunity for second chances, comports with both the pursuit of justice and public safety.”
Thirteen current elected prosecutors from across the country signed onto the brief, including Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine, District Attorneys Scott Colom (Columbus, Miss.), Mark Dupree (Kansas City, Kan.), Eric Gonzalez (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Mark Gonzalez (Corpus Christi, Tex.), John Hummel (Bend, Ore.), Larry Krasner (Philadelphia, Pa.), Beth McCann (Denver, Colo.), Tori Verber Salazar (Stockton, Calif.), Raúl Torrez (Albuquerque, N.M.); State’s Attorney Sarah George (Burlington, Vt.), State Attorney Andrew Warren (Tampa, Fla.), and Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon (Lansing, Mich.).
They were joined by nine former judges, including retired federal judges Nancy Gertner (U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts), Patricia M. Wald (U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), and Ann Claire Williams (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit) and retired Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge. A full list of signators is below.
“Judges, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors are aware that young people have the capacity to reform and grow out of the immaturity that can lead them to criminal conduct. We see that frequently in the cases that come into our offices and our courtrooms,” said Denver (Colo.) DA Beth McCann, one of the elected DAs who joined the brief.
The brief argues — on behalf of officers of the law — that the rule of law requires that Supreme Court decisions recognizing constitutional protections not be eviscerated by formalistic distinctions, such as that between a sentence labeled “life without parole” and a no-parole-until-age-112 sentence.
“Condemning a juvenile involved in a nonhomicide case to die in prison — with no opportunity for release — is unjust and irreconcilable with Supreme Court case law,” said Ingham County (Lansing, Mich.) Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon, another signator on the brief.
The amicus brief was authored by attorneys Clifford M. Sloan and Brendan B. Gants. Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of newly elected prosecutors committed to change and innovation, coordinated the amicus effort.
“This case represents an end-run around the Constitution and the law of the land as decided by the Supreme Court. It is a mere formality that the sentence issued in this case has an end date, because whether it’s 112 years or life without parole, the result is the same for this juvenile — death in prison,” said Clifford M. Sloan, one of the authors of the brief.
“Mr. Bostic’s sentence — 241 years in prison starting at age 16 — dooms him to life without parole. That is his punishment, no matter what term we use for the sentence he received,” said Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri. “The Supreme Court in Graham ruled that life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional. Mr. Bostic should be no exception.”
The amicus brief is available here:
For more information about Bostic v. Pash:
ACLU of Missouri
For more information about Fair and Just Prosecution:
Complete List of Signators
Roy L. Austin, Jr., former Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity; former Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
Shay Bilchik, former Associate Deputy Attorney General and Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice; former Chief Assistant State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit (Miami-Dade County), Florida
Bobbe J. Bridge, former Justice, Washington State Supreme Court
Michael R. Bromwich, former Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice; former Chief, Narcotics Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Jim Bueermann, former Chief of Police, Redlands, California; president, The Police Foundation
Gladys Carrión, former Commissioner, New York State Office of Children and Family Services; former Commissioner, New York City Administration for Children’s Services
Scott Colom, District Attorney, Sixteenth Circuit, Mississippi
Rock Cowles, former Officer, Boiling Springs Police Department, South Carolina
Brendan Cox, former Chief of Police, Albany, New York
Mark A. Dupree, Sr., District Attorney, Wyandotte County (Kansas City), Kansas
Peter Edelman, former Director, New York State Division for Youth
Clarence Edwards, former Chief of Police, Montgomery County, Maryland
George C. Eskin, former Judge, California Superior Court; former Assistant District Attorney, Ventura County and Santa Barbara County, California
John Farmer, former Attorney General, State of New Jersey; former Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
Lisa Foster, former Judge, California Superior Court; former Director, Office for Access to Justice, U.S. Department of Justice
Shelley Fox-Loken, former Corrections Officer, State of Oregon; former Parole and Probation Officer, State of Oregon
Neill Franklin, former Major, Baltimore City and Maryland State Police Departments
Brian Gaughan, former Officer, Iowa and Illinois Police
Sarah F. George, State’s Attorney, Chittenden County (Burlington), Vermont
Nancy Gertner, former Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Michael Gilbert, former Corrections Officer, Arizona Department of Corrections
Diane Goldstein, former Lieutenant Commander, Redondo Beach Police Department, California
Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York
Mark Gonzalez, District Attorney, Nueces County (Corpus Christi), Texas
James P. Gray, former Judge, Superior Court of Orange County, California
Vanita Gupta, former Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Michele Hirshman, former First Deputy Attorney General, State of New York; former Chief, General Crimes and Public Corruption Units, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Tim Hitt, former Corporal, Monroe Police Department, Louisiana; former Deputy Sheriff, Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana
Martin F. Horn, former Commissioner, New York City Department of Corrections; former Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation; former Secretary of Corrections, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; former Executive Director, New York State Division of Parole
John Hummel, District Attorney, Deschutes County (Bend), Oregon
Michael P. Jacobson, former Commissioner, New York City Department of Corrections; former Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation
Candice Jones, former Director, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
Dorothy Yates Kirkley, former Acting U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Georgia; former Assistant Attorney General, State of Georgia
Larry Krasner, District Attorney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Miriam Aroni Krinsky, former Chief, Criminal Appeals Section, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California; former Chair, Solicitor General’s Advisory Group on Appellate Issues
Corinna Lain, former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, Richmond, Virginia
Douglas Letter, former Terrorism Litigation Counsel and Appellate Litigation Counsel, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Robert L. Listenbee, First Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; former Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice
David M. Long, former Special Agent, Office of Labor Racketeering, U.S. Department of Labor — Office of the Inspector General
John Mathews II, former Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico
Gordon D. McAllister, Jr., former Judge, District Court of Tulsa County, Oklahoma
Beth McCann, District Attorney, Second Judicial District (Denver), Colorado
Patrick McCarthy, former Director, Delaware Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services
Mary McCord, former Acting Assistant Attorney General and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security, U.S. Department of Justice; former Chief, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
Terri McDonald, Chief Probation Officer, Los Angeles County, California; former Assistant Sheriff, Los Angeles County, California; former Undersecretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Steve Miller, former Sergeant, Canton Police Department, Michigan
David Muhammad, former Chief Probation Officer, Alameda County (Oakland), California; former Deputy Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation
Titus Peterson, former Lead Felony Prosecutor, Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado
Jim Petro, former Attorney General, State of Ohio
Channing Phillips, former U.S. Attorney, District of Columbia; former Senior Counselor to the Attorney General and Deputy Associate Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Karl Racine, Attorney General, District of Columbia
Ira Reiner, former District Attorney, Los Angeles County, California
Meg Reiss, former Chief of Staff, Nassau County (Long Island) District Attorney’s Office, New York; former Assistant District Attorney, Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office, New York
Tori Verber Salazar, District Attorney, San Joaquin County (Stockton), California
Vincent Schiraldi, former Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation; former Director, District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services
Harry Shorstein, former State Attorney, Fourth Judicial Circuit, Florida
Carol A. Siemon, Prosecuting Attorney, Ingham County, Michigan
Neal R. Sonnett, former Chief, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida
Darryl A. Stallworth, former Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County (Oakland), California
Norm Stamper, former Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department, Washington
Kenneth W. Starr, former Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; former Solicitor General of the United States
Paul Steigleder, former Deputy Sheriff, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon
Mark D. Steward, former Director, Missouri Division of Youth Services
Carter Stewart, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Ohio
Thomas P. Sullivan, former U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois
Carl Tennenbaum, former Sergeant, San Francisco Police Department, California
Raúl Torrez, District Attorney, Bernalillo County (Albuquerque), New Mexico
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., former Solicitor General of the United States; former Associate Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Patricia M. Wald, former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Andrew H. Warren, State Attorney, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Tampa), Florida
William H. Webster, former Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; former Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri; former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation; former Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Ronald Weich, former Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice; former Special Counsel, U.S. Sentencing Commission; former Assistant District Attorney, New York County (Manhattan), New York
Carl Wicklund, former Executive Director, American Probation and Parole Association
Ann Claire Williams, former Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; former Judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Sally Yates, former Acting Attorney General of the United States; former Deputy Attorney General of the United States; former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
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Youth are still developing, so as a result society treats kids and adults differently in several contexts, such as driving and serving in the military. Yet in the criminal justice system, we treat youth as adults.