Mo. Supreme Court Considers Juvenile Appeals
JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether juveniles convicted of first degree murder should automatically be sentenced to life in prison.
The case is a result of the 2007 murder of a St. Louis police officer by Antonio Gates. Gates, who was 15 at the time of the murder, was convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison.
Wednesday Andrew's attorney, Brocca Smith, argued before the Missouri Supreme Court to reconsider life sentences for juveniles convicted of first degree murder.
"Antonio Andrews was arrested and locked up at the age of 15, and he's been sentenced to die in prison. That sentence is unconstitutional for two reasons. The first is it violates the Eighth amendment's cruel and unusual clause. The second is it violates the Sixth amendment through Apprendi v. New Jersey," Smith told the Supreme Court.
She argued that the combination of Missouri's certification statute and it's murder one statue is unconstitutional.
Smith added, "Missouri's statutes, the certification statute intersecting with the murder first statute, creates a situation in which a juvenile is subject to a mandatory sentence of life without the opportunity for probation or parole. That's the problem. That's what makes the certification statute unconstitutional."
Evan Buchheim, a prosecutor with the state attorney general's office, defended the mandatory life sentence, saying there is little difference between a mandatory life sentence and deciding to sentence someone to life in prison.
"If you say the Eighth amendment prohibits the jury from considering mitigating circumstances in a juvenile homicide case, you would automatically have to have some sentence available other than life without parole," says Buchheim.
The Missouri Supreme Court has not decided when and how a ruling in the case will be handed down.