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Convicted juveniles with life sentences could see resentencing
About two dozen juvenile offenders are serving life sentences here in Nebraska, but they could be resentenced. The US Supreme Court ruled in June that laws mandating a life sentence for youths convicted of murder are unconstitutional.
News 5's Katie Gauthier spoke with local senators Friday.
Previously, if a person under the age of 18 was convicted of murder in Nebraska they would automatically be sentenced to life in prison.
But the Supreme Court says that law violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"Right now it doesn't make any difference that youth once sent has to stay there for the rest of their life. There is no option for parole. That will no longer be the case," said Senator Mike Gloor.
Juveniles convicted of first degree murder in Nebraska would automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"The Supreme Court felt it was cruel and unusual punishment since it dealt with juveniles and it was mandatory," said Senator Galen Hadley.
The ruling says there must be options given to the judge and juries.
It can't be a mandatory life sentence.
"I think the Supreme Court at least wanted the judge to be able to look at any mitigating circumstance the age of the juvenile, those kinds of things in making the judgment as what the sentence should be," Senator Hadley said.
Which means nearly two dozen inmates have a glimmer of hope, for possible parole or resentencing.
"The problem is we have 26 juveniles in the state of Nebraska who have been sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment for murder so we have to decide how we're going to handle those things," Senator Hadley said.
"What will eventually happen is the legislature will have to go in and rewrite the laws to comply with our U.S. Constitution," said Senator Gloor.
But will the legislature wait until the upcoming session in January?
The governor has said he does not think it warrants a special session to be called.
"I'd be surprised if a special session was called and I'm not sure that I would be in support of the special session being called," said Senator Gloor.
Hadley agrees saying he thinks the issue can wait until January, in which case the bill could have an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect immediately.
For now, those 26 Nebraska juvenile inmates will remain incarcerated.
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