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Abercrombie mulls mandatory parole for young offenders

By Cathy Bussewitz

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:07 p.m. HST, May 07, 2014

State lawmakers are following a national trend and challenging Gov. Neil Abercrombie to consider whether children convicted of first-degree murder should be treated differently than murderous adults.

Abercrombie's signature is the only step remaining for a bill (HB 2116) that would abolish life sentences without parole for minors.

An Abercrombie spokesman said Wednesday he has not yet made a decision. He has until July 8 to sign or veto the proposal, and has to warn the Legislature about a potential veto by June 23.

Advocates say children are impressionable and sometimes cannot get out of horrific, crime-ridden environments. They say children also are more likely to rehabilitate.

But Honolulu prosecutors told lawmakers that it wouldn't be fair to people who are born just weeks apart from slightly younger perpetrators of the same crime. They told the Legislature that the court system already makes special accommodations for young offenders who are under 22 years old and have no prior felony convictions.

In the past two years, four other states have eliminated life without parole as a sentence for juveniles, including Texas, Wyoming, Delaware and West Virginia, said James Dold, executive director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. The Washington-based coalition helped craft Hawaii's legislation.

The United States is the only country in the world that allows children to be sentenced to life without parole, Dold said.

"Internationally, this is looked at as a human rights abuse," Dold said. "It's important for us as a country to be leader in this issue, and children shouldn't be subject to what is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment."

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of Kauai supported the proposal.

"Although it seems potentially inequitable that two defendants born weeks apart could receive dramatically different sentences for committing the same offense, this bill is a step in the correct direction," said Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney for Kauai, in written testimony.

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gsc wrote:
If you can do the Crime, Then you can do the Time....
on May 7,2014 | 02:12PM
kaiakea wrote:
These so called children know right from wrong. The larger issue issue is not what's best for them but what is best for the innocent, which they are not, they are criminals. Lock them up and throw away the key. The liberal agenda is what is ruining human society.
on May 7,2014 | 04:27PM
soundofreason wrote:
Wanna play gangsta? Then serve gangsta time.
on May 7,2014 | 06:54PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Kaiakea, you are right, especially since Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 706-656, states that it is MANDATORY that the Governor RECONSIDER the sentence of life without the possibility of parole after the convict serves 20 years, and commute the sentence to life with the possibility of parole, at which time the Paroling Authority will probably grant parole. AGAIN, with all Hawaii sentencing laws, what is stated is not always true, life without the possibility of parole is NOT REALLY life without the possibility of parole. The only place where there is truth in sentencing is the Federal Courts.
on May 8,2014 | 07:22PM
false wrote:
vote people!!
on May 7,2014 | 05:12PM
kekelaward wrote:
This crime sounds much more serious than what most people are thinking. This would also cover mass school killings. No one, regardless of age, should ever be paroled if found guilty of such a heinous crime.

§707-701 Murder in the first degree. (1) A person commits the offense of murder in the first degree if the person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of: (a) More than one person in the same or separate incident; (b) A law enforcement officer, judge, or prosecutor arising out of the performance of official duties; (c) A person known by the defendant to be a witness in a criminal prosecution and the killing is related to the person's status as a witness; (d) A person by a hired killer, in which event both the person hired and the person responsible for hiring the killer shall be punished under this section; or (e) A person while the defendant was imprisoned. (2) Murder in the first degree is a felony for which the defendant shall be sentenced to imprisonment as provided in section 706-656. [L 1972, c 9, pt of §1; am L 1986, c 314, §49; am L 2001, c 91, §4; am L 2006, c 230, §27]

on May 7,2014 | 06:57PM
BlueDolphin53 wrote:
Neil, I don't know what's taking you so long to decide. "Kids" nowadays are not like kids a generation ago. Many can be just as calculating and cold blooded as any adult.
on May 7,2014 | 10:13PM
Slow wrote:
The United States of America is the only nation in the world to imprison children for life. This is simply because American children are the worst children in the world. Reading every comment above mine, it is clear that everyone agrees. Lock all children away forever.
on May 8,2014 | 06:05AM
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