House committee endorses legislation on youth sentences
A House committee vote in favor of legislation to change the punishment for 17-year-old capital murder defendants to mandatory life with parole brought Texas one step closer to resolving the state's sentencing quagmire left in the wake of last year'sSupreme Court ruling barring mandatory life without parole for anyone under 18.
In Texas, the criminal code designates 17 as an adult. The Supreme Court ruling made unconstitutional the only sentence available for 17-year-old capital murder defendants.
Without a legal punishment on the books, prosecutors are faced with filing cases on a lesser charge or putting the trials on hold. When legislation failed to pass during the regular session, Gov. Rick Perry, at the urging of prosecutors statewide, called on lawmakers to fix the legal loophole during the special session.
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