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While the debate continues, chances are slim that any proposal will become law this year. Latz’s bill is moving through the Senate, but a similar bill by Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, appears to be in limbo. Mullery’s bill would allow juveniles serving life to apply for parole after 20 years if they committed the crime when they were 14 or 15. If they were 16 or 17, they could apply for parole after 25 years. The bill would be retroactive. It has yet to even get a hearing and may not before the 2014 Legislative session draws to a close in May.
Mullery said the issue of retroactivity is likely a sticking point, but said there’s also little sense of urgency to address the matter. Even though the state law has not been repealed, judges in Minnesota will sentence juveniles in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s orders, he said, and none of the incarcerated eight would be eligible for parole anytime soon.
Mullery said the bill may have a chance next year.
Perry Moriearty, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, is co-director of the Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic, which represents Chambers and another, Brian Lee Flowers. Moriearty said that the Supreme Court’s decision has no bearing on what kind of legislation can be passed, though she understands the opposition to retroactively changing the law, particularly for the closure for crime victims’ families.
“What I would suggest, though, is that we now know that juvenile brains are not adult brains,” Moriearty said. “We know a lot more about the development of kids than when the majority of these eight people committed their crimes.”
Abby Simons • 651-925-5043