Adult time for adult crimes was the legal chant against juveniles that committed violent crimes during the ‘90s. Civil rights organizations detested this approach, they claimed it targeted Black teens and created cruel sentencing practices by disregarding their youth.
In 1995, 16-year-old Bobby Bostic committed multiple crimes with 18-year-old Donald Hutson all in the same day. Bostic described the crime spree and the charges. Bostic stated there were five people in this crowd (delivering Christmas presents to the needy), but “we only robbed two…One victim was shot but not injured—grazed. Thirty minutes later we committed another robbery and took the victim’s car (A woman who was fondled before being released).” In the first incident, “I was charged with 2 counts of first degree robbery and 3 counts of attempted robbery.” For the second incident, “I was charged with kidnapping and armed criminal action. In all I was charged with 17 counts from these incidents…The trial for all these charges was held at the same time.”
Bostic continued, “The only plea bargain I was offered was a life sentence. I went to trial and a jury found me guilty of all counts. The jury recommended 30 years for three robberies, and 15 years for the first-degree assaults, and 5 to 10 for the attempted robberies and criminal action charges. The final decision was left to the judge to run the sentences concurrently for a 30-year sentence or consecutively for a total of 240 years.”
The Judge, Evelyn Baker, chose the latter and told Bostic, “You’re the biggest fool who ever stood in front of this court…You made your choice. You’re going to live with your choice, and you’re going to die with your choice…Your mandatory date to go in front of the parole board will be the year 2201.”
Meanwhile, Bostic explained, “Several months after I was sentenced, my adult co-defendant… was sentenced after a guilty plea to 30 years…He goes home in 8, and I remain serving a life sentence without parole.”
Bobby Bostic has been incarcerated for decades. He’s not eligible for parole until he is 112 years old. This sentence is a direct result of an “adult time for adult crime” mentality that put the maximum weight of adulthood on a juvenile.
But shouldn’t Bostic’s adult time-served and his rehabilitative efforts count toward something in his lifetime?
Today, there are over 100 current and former judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers who are calling on the Supreme Court to throw out Bostic’s sentence based on the 2010 Graham v. Florida ruling, which states, “The constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide” the state cannot impose a sentence that “guarantees he will die in prison without any meaningful opportunity to obtain release.”
Even the retired sentencing judge, Evelyn Baker, recently wrote an article in the Washington Post called: “I sentenced a teen to die in prison; I regret it.”
Baker wrote, “I thought I was faulting Bostic for his crimes, looking back, I see that I was punishing him for what he did and his immaturity…Scientists have discovered so much about brain development in the 20 years since I sentenced Bostic…But to put him and children like him in prison for life without any chance of release, no matter how they develop over time is unfair, unjust, and under the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision unconstitutional.”
But, as of this date, the state of Missouri disagrees.
Their state attorney general stated Bostic’s 241-year sentence for multiple crimes does not violate the 8th amendment’s restriction on cruel and unusual punishment, because the 2010 Supreme court ruling that outlawed life sentences for people under 18, who didn’t kill anyone, only applies to a sentence for one crime.
Maybe it’s time to single out cruel from “cruel and unusual” because the combination doesn’t apply to Bobby Bostic, his unusual punishment was the norm in the ‘90s.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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