Proposed bill gives 17 year olds life without parole - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Proposed bill gives 17 year olds life without parole

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

A new bill stating 17 year olds, being tried for capital murder, can receive a sentence of life without parole, was passed by the Texas State House and could be passed by the Senate Sunday.

"I believe that if a 17 year old is mature enough to commit that kind of act and be tried as an adult, that we need that option to take them out of society all together. That's been Texas law in the past and it should continue to be," said Matt Schaefer, State Representative for Texas House District 6.

Schaefer has been pushing the Senate to pass Bill 23.

"If this bill doesn't pass, then we're left only with the option with trying them under first degree murder which is basically a range of punishment from 5 to 99 to life which is much less severe. I don't think that's good," said Schaefer

The current bill only gives one punishment option for 17 year olds being tried for first degree murder. That punishment is life in prison with chance of parole in 40 years.

"The judge or the jury is going to have a chance to consider all those factors about that young person. If they think that's justified, they can give him life without parole but they will also have the option then to say no, he deserves life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years," said Schaefer.

According to the proposed bill, the judge and jury can consider evidence brought by the defendant that includes evidence of the defendant's background or character and evidence of the circumstances of the offense. When sentencing, they can also consider any relevant mitigating evidence, including the defendant's age.

"We don't have a way under Texas law to say, we need to take you out of society all together and if the facts justify that, we need the option to protect society, protect Texans from someone, who at the age of 17 is mature enough and commits and adult act," said Schaefer.

Schaefer compares the shooting at Columbine as a perfect example of an act worthy of life in prison from a juvenile.

"Along the lines of what Dylan Klebold did in Columbine, to say to the victims and the family and to our citizens that we're going to take this person and put them in prison and we don't have to worry about him again," said Schaefer.

Schaefer says he will be at the capitol Sunday, where the Senate will review the amendment.

If the Senate doesn't make a decision, they will appoint a conference committee to reach a decision.

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