OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma measure awaits Gov. Mary Fallin's signature that would allow only judges, not juries, to sentence juveniles to life imprisonment without parole for murder.
Lawmakers introduced the measure because of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that practically eliminated mandatory life without parole sentences for offenders who are accused of killing when they were 17 or younger, The Oklahoman reported.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 2016 ruled that two juveniles needed to be resentenced because of those decisions. Prosecutors have been waiting on guidelines from the Legislature before proceeding.
Supporters said the bill would give clear guidelines for the sentencing judges to follow and address the high court's concerns about juvenile murder prosecutions.
The measure would require a judge to consider the immaturity and failure to acknowledge risks and consequences associated with youth. The judge would also decide whether the case crime was more the result of an offender's youth or a permanent reason.
Jurors would be dismissed after determining a juvenile's guilt.
"If a 17-year-old goes into a school and massacres a school, they probably could be beyond rehabilitation," said state Rep. Tim Downing. "They could be so demented and evil that they should get life without parole. That's a legitimate sentence."