ST. LOUIS • Lawyers for a St. Louis man serving a 241-year prison sentence for crimes he committed at 16 have appealed the case to the nation’s highest court.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted a writ of certiorari filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Bobby Bostic, now 38, the ACLU said. Bostic robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents for the needy when he was 16. Bostic and his 18-year-old accomplice also each shot a victim, slightly injuring one, the brief says. The victims' heavy winter coats slowed down the bullets.
The pair then carjacked another woman and put a gun to her head, and Bostic’s accomplice robbed and fondled her before releasing her, the brief says.
Bostic rejected a deal to plead guilty and get a 30-year sentence, went to trial and lost. His accomplice, Donald Hutson, took the deal.
The ACLU brief argues that a 2010 decision that prohibited a sentence of life without parole for juveniles, Graham v. Florida, should also apply to those whose lengthy prison terms effectively mean the same thing.
Bostic, whose case was profiled in the Post-Dispatch in 2014, is likely to die in prison, they say, because he won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 112, nearly twice his life expectancy.
That was the intent of then-Circuit Judge Evelyn Baker, who ran the sentences jurors had recommended consecutively and told Bostic, “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 cited Bostic’s history of arrests and letters from jail in which he blamed others.
The ACLU says the Graham decision means that Bostic’s sentence is unconstitutional and that Bostic should be given some meaningful opportunity for release, if he has shown he’s “fit to rejoin society.”
It also says that the Supreme Court needs to resolve a split among state courts that, like Missouri, have been ignoring the court’s decision in Graham as it applies to juveniles sentenced to the equivalent of life without parole in non-homicide cases.
Bostic’s appeals on grounds similar to the one in the ACLU appeal have been rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court and lower courts.
The state has struggled in recent years to reconcile its legal system with the Graham decision and another, Miller v. Alabama, which found automatic punishments of life without parole for youths unconstitutional.
Last year, legislators changed the law in response to the Miller case so that anyone under 18 at the time of a crime who was sentenced to life without parole or sentenced to life or between 30 and 40 years for murder could petition the parole board for a review after serving 25 years.
But activists are still fighting to raise the age at which teens are prosecuted as adults in criminal court.