Ex-judge expresses regret for St. Louis teen's long sentence

ST. LOUIS — A former St. Louis judge who sentenced a teenager to more than 240 years in prison says she "deeply" regrets her ruling and is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to give him the opportunity for reform.

Evelyn Baker sentenced Bobby Bostic in 1997 for the 1995 robbery of people delivering Christmas presents for the needy. He was 16 at the time of the robbery.

Baker published an op-ed Thursday expressing her regret over the punishment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .

"Scientists have discovered so much about brain development in the more than 20 years since I sentenced Bostic," she wrote. "What I learned too late is that young people's brains are not static; they are in the process of maturing. ... Overwhelming scientific research shows that children lack maturity and a sense of responsibility compared with adults because they are still growing. But for the same reason, they also have greater capacity for reform."

Baker also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union last week, according to legal director Tony Rothert. In a letter dated Sunday, Baker asked the court to add her name to an amicus brief filed by 26 former judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

The ACLU and others have asked the court to rule that their 2010 decision prohibiting life without parole for juveniles be applied to Bostic's case. Rothert said Missouri officials have 30 days to file a response.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Bostic robbed the group with Donald Hutson, 18. They each fired a gun at a victim, shots that were slowed by heavy winter coats before the bullets broke skin. Both walked away with barely a nick. The robbers then carjacked a woman and Hutson robbed and fondled her before releasing her, according to a brief filed by the ACLU.

Hutson took a plea deal and got 30 years. Bostic went to trial and lost.

"You made your choice. You're gonna have to live with your choice, and you're gonna die with your choice because, Bobby Bostic, you will die in the Department of Corrections," Baker told him at sentencing.

Later, she said, "I feel nothing for you. I feel the same thing for you that you apparently felt for those victims and you feel for your family."

Bostic is now 39 and won't be eligible for parole until he's 112, according to the ACLU.

"I see now that this kind of sentence is as benighted as it is unjust," Baker wrote in her recent op-ed.

Rothert called Baker's advocacy "very much a pleasant surprise."

"That together with the court seeking a response, does give us hope that the Supreme Court will try to make this case right," he said. But "we're still aware that any time you're asking the Supreme Court to take a case, it's a long shot."

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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