2:00pm

Mon March 28, 2011
The Two-Way

Colorado Talks Overturn Of Life Sentences For Juveniles Convicted Of Murder

Colorado lawmakers are trying to untangle a dilemma: Five years ago, the state legislature passed a law that allowed juveniles convicted of murder in adult court to be eligible for parole after 40 years.

But that law was not retroactive, so it left almost 50 juveniles who were convicted of murder before that law passed in jail for life.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reports that a bi-partisan bill introduced by three lawmakers is trying to change that:

Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, and Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, said the measure is a matter of fairness. ...

"They were kids when they did what they did, and they shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults," Levy said. "We've treated them exactly like adults, and they should get a second chance, or at least an opportunity at a second chance."

The state's attorney general opposes the bill, reports the Denver Post, because the victims went through a trial thinking the people convicted of murder would be in jail for life.

"There is a fundamental, profound difference when we try to go back and rewrite history," Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger told the Grand Junction paper. "On all 48 cases, victims were told this is what the law is, this is what the sentence is going to be. These are the choices the defendant has to make. To now go back and say, 'Oh, never mind. None of that counted.' I think that's outrageous."

As an example of those who would be affected by the law, the Grand Junction Sentinel, points to Verle James Mangum, 31, who was convicted at age 17 for the murder of Janet Davis, 42, and her 11-year-old daughter. The paper reports that in 1996, Davis walked into Mangum and her daughter having sex. Mangum was high on meth and killed both the daughter and Davis with a baseball bat. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.