- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - People convicted of murder as teenagers would have a chance at parole after serving 25 years of their life sentence, if the Louisiana House agrees to a proposal approved Wednesday by state senators.

The 22-13 vote came in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down automatic no-parole life sentences for crimes committed by someone under the age of 18 and a follow-up decision that extended that ruling to include those convicted long ago.

Lawmakers have grappled with how to handle the ruling and have, in many instances, said they are only considering the changes for people convicted for first-degree and second-degree murder because they feel forced by the nation’s highest court.

“I’m not mincing words here. We’re talking about murderers,” said Baton Rouge Sen. Dan Claitor, the Republican sponsor of the bill. “But this is a Supreme Court mandate.”

Under the bill , the prisoners would be eligible for a parole hearing - but not guaranteed parole. They’d have to meet certain educational, job skills training, good behavior and other requirements to reach eligibility.

“You have to give at least access to the parole system. You don’t have to grant it,” said Sen. Danny Martiny, a Republican from Kenner.

Fourteen people are expected to be immediately eligible for a parole hearing, Claitor said.

The law already was changed after the 2012 Supreme Court ruling to allow for parole consideration for people sentenced to life as juveniles after they served 35 years of their sentences and met certain criteria, but the change was not applied retroactively.

The proposal under consideration would drop the number of years served - and make it retroactive.

Before advancing the proposal to the House, senators rewrote it to drop the time served from 30 years to 25 years. Claitor didn’t support the changes, which were pushed by Martiny, who argued that put Louisiana more in line with the Supreme Court decisions.

“It is our obligation as a Legislature to fix the problem in accordance with the way the Supreme Court has directed us,” Martiny said.

The measure faces opposition from district attorneys and is expected to face a difficult road to final passage. A proposal aimed at addressing the Supreme Court ruling failed to reach the governor’s desk last year.

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Senate Bill 16: www.legis.la.gov

Senate vote for passage: https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1036178

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte


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