House Passes Bill That Could Change Sentencing For Underage Killers
OKLAHOMA CITY - The State House of Representatives passed a bill that could change the way underage killers are sentenced.
Right now, kids that are tried and convicted as adults for first-degree murder can get life in prison without parole if a jury decided to impose that sentence. A bill passed by the House could change that.
For 14 months, the family of JaRay Wilson of Weatherford was terrified. The 16-year old had disappeared without a trace.
In December of 2013, the mystery was solved in the worst possible way. The teen was found in a shallow grave just north of town. She had been murdered by her then 17-year-old boyfriend.
Monday in the State House of Representatives, JaRay’s family was relived as lawmakers debated an amendment that could allow judges to determine whether underage killers should serve life in prison.
Opponents say the teen killers should be re-evaluated after so many years.
“Think about what you were like when you were 13 years old. I don’t like to think about what I was like when I was 13 because I was a wreck. But something you did when you were 13-years old could cause you to remain in prison,” said Representative Kevin Calvey (R) Edmond.
The law would only apply after a psychological exam and only after a teen is found by a judge, not a jury, to be someone who cannot be rehabilitated. In other words, incorrigible.
“Proving that a juvenile is permanently incorrigible and that they’re corrupt to the point that they’re never going to be rehabilitated,” said District 6 District Attorney Jason Hicks.
"What does that term mean?” asked Representative Regina Goodwin (D) Tulsa, “And who among us really gets to decide who can never make a turn. Who can never become better?”
Backers said the bill just gives courts a framework.
“This is a procedure to help the courts determine whether or not someone that is a youth that has committed a crime tried as an adult can be tried as life without parole,” said Representative Harold Wright (R) Arapaho.
JaRay’s mother said she knows firsthand, some people just can’t be rehabilitated.
“We’re JaRay’s voice,” said Jara Wilson. “She doesn’t have a voice. And I know a lot of people fought against it but fortunately they haven’t been where I’ve been.”
The bill now heads to the senate where it could be changed.