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Bill to abolish life terms for minors now with gov

Abercrombie must review the measure with relevant officials, a spokesman says

By Cathy Bussewitz / Associated Press


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

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

Abercrombie has not yet officially made a decision on House Bill 2116 because he has to thoroughly review it with the attorney general and relevant departments, spokesman Justin Fujioka said Wednesday. Abercrombie 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 a 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," Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney for Kauai, said in written testimony.

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Winston wrote:
I wonder what the family of the Eva Beach woman murdered by a 15 year old would think of Neil's "compassion"?
on May 8,2014 | 05:49AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Neil's compassion? This is a bill that was passed by Hawaii's legislature following a trend of doing away with life sentences for minors. Neil hasn't signed it yet.
on May 8,2014 | 06:15AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I think this may be good. It depends on the transition and evaluation process. I expect maybe about a 60% success rate.
on May 8,2014 | 06:05AM
atilter wrote:
bs! instead of minimizing or lessening the life terms for minors who are found guilty of murder, we should re-instate the death penalty for adults found guilty of the same crime! in either case, we pay far too much to house and care for these criminals of heinous and grievious crimes against society. the penalty should fit the crime.
on May 8,2014 | 09:30AM
kekelaward wrote:
When talking about murder, a 40% failure rate is nothing to be happy about.
on May 8,2014 | 04:41PM
Bdpapa wrote:
No, its not!
on May 8,2014 | 07:48PM
environmental_lady wrote:
It's surprising that Texas, the most prolific state when it comes to executions, would allow murdering minors more mercy. What about heinous crimes and serial killers? Wouldn't that encourage minors to commit murder knowing that they wouldn't be incarcerated for life? They'd mock the system. I can understand if a minor lashes out at his/her lifelong abuser, but when murdering an innocent person so brutally, that has to punished seriously.
on May 8,2014 | 08:14AM
jusjoking wrote:
Give the judges discretion in sentencing but leave the option of no parole on the table. As poor get poorer and rich get richer, punishment will be the only way to tame the beasts that resort to crime to survive.
on May 8,2014 | 09:34AM
Slow wrote:
The U.S.A. is the only nation that sentences minors to life without parole. Obviously it is because our children are the worst in the world and deserve more punishment. I am happy all the comments agree that we are too lenient, if anything on all children. Especially, as environmental_lady points out, all those serial killer children in our midst.
on May 8,2014 | 11:13AM
st1d wrote:
prohibiting life terms for all juvenile criminals is a wrong move. judges must have an option to protect the public from the few truly violent or murderous psychopaths and sociopaths who reject society's code of conduct and reject rehabilitation no matter what their age.
on May 8,2014 | 06:57PM
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