Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Magnitude of Injustice

"Mr. Bostic should get a chance to show that crimes he committed at 16 do not define him."
"The [American] Constitution demands nothing less."
"[Bostic], who committed only nonhomicide offenses as a 16 year old, will never be fit to rejoin society, no matter how successfully he demonstrates maturity and reform as an adult."
American Civil Liberties Union

"I hope this will be a message to the other young men and women out there."
"You made your choice, and you're gonna die with your choice. Because Bobby Bostic -- you will die in the Department of Corrections."
 Judge Evelyn Baker, original trial, 1997

"I thought I was faulting Bostic for his crimes. Looking back, I see that I was punishing him both for what he did and for his immaturity."
"I am now retired, and I deeply regret what I did. While I did not technically give him 'life without parole', I placed on his shoulders a prison term of so many years combined that there is no way he will ever be considered for release."
"He won't become eligible for parole until he is 112 years old -- which means he will die in prison, regardless of whether he rehabilitates himself or changes as he grows older."
"This is the only one [criminal sentencing case] where I regret the amount of time I gave [in her 25-year career as a judge]. The amount of time is ridiculous."
Judge Evelyn Baker, April 2018
Bobby Bostic in 2017
Bobby Bostic in 2017

"Reality set in the very moment I was given 241 years, and she told me I would die in prison. When that happens, the world drops, and reality sets in. It's no longer a game. Your life has just been taken away. That's when I got the wake-up call."
"[The prison was] complete chaos. It was predator versus prey. You had to try and fit in. If you didn't, people would do all types of things. You had to be a man at an early age - or try to be a man."
"I got into a few fights. That's going to happen to anybody. You're going to get tested, because you're new. I was a young guy, I had to prove myself. You do that through fighting."
"They [victims' advocate class] teach you from the start of the crime, to the end of the crime, what victims go through."
"When I committed my crime, I never realised who my victims were, or what they were doing. The courses teach you how to put a face on the victims. They teach you empathy, and to realise they're people with rights."
"You learn about the trauma they experience; how to help them heal. Knowing that my actions caused all this trauma, I took it more to heart. I took it personally. I created victims."
"Ignorance is [now] the order of the damn prison. The youngsters lie around. There's no studying or reading. When I came in, we used to read, study. Nowadays, that doesn't exist: it's just TV and games. Everything is a game now."
Bobby Bostic, 39, wrongfully sentenced
Born in St.Louis, Missouri, accustomed to life as an underprivileged young Black, Bobby Bostic hung out with other shiftless young men, with no interest in school, hanging out in gangs, using alcohol and drugs, exposed to no value system other than their own interests in petty crime. On a single day at age 16 he and a friend decided that people delivering Christmas gifts to needy people near his neighbourhood would make perfect victims.

Both he and his friend carried guns. Young Bostic fired one of those guns, a bullet grazing one of the victims during the commission of the robbery. Both young boys were arrested and both refused a plea deal offering them a 30 year sentence. Bobby had spoken to his step-father, a criminal who spent years in prison, for advice, and the advice he got was to refuse the plea deal. Who wouldn't want to? Offering a 16-year-old a 'bargain' 30 years in jail?

Good fortune simply wasn't with Bostic. He made an unfortunate impression on the presiding judge who took exception to his casual air of entitlement and lack of remorse for his actions. She felt he was entirely too arrogant, and seeing the man in the boy felt he didn't deserve to be released any time soon into the general public. And so she worked up the absolute harshest sentence conceivable to give a 16-year-old; virtual living death.

For each of the offences he was charged with 17 counts in total, inclusive of eight counts of armed criminal action and three of robbery, she sentenced him to a total of 241 years in prison; cruel and unusual punishment by any accounting. His lawyers argued that eligibility for parole in 112 years represented a violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

How a judge, impartially meting out justice could arrive at such a punishment, considering the crimes committed and the age of the accused is beyond understanding.

Now retired, she has had a change of heart. Now that the child has become a man, reformed entirely in his outlook on life and adoption of values, and who has already served a sentence commensurate with homicide. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley however, opposed the appeal, referencing a 2010 Supreme Court ruling outlawing life sentences for those under 18 whose crimes did not include murder applied to a one-crime sentence, not consecutive sentences; specious reasoning if ever any qualified as such.

Unbelievably, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has seen fit to turn down Bobby Bostic's appeal. Absolutely stunning, a decision more fitting to a barbaric tyranny than a great democracy.

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