Maryland Gov. Hogan vetoes bill that would do away with life-without-parole sentences for juveniles

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talks about the state


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has vetoed a bill that would have abolished life sentences without parole for juveniles.

The state’s Senate Bill 494 and House Bill 409, known as the Juvenile Restoration Act, would have required authorities to sentence minors being convicted as adults to less than the legal minimum term and prohibited courts from imposing life sentences.

Hogan said the bill “pertains to juveniles who have committed crimes so heinous that they are automatically charged as adults, including first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, manslaughter, and certain offenses with firearms,”  in a Thursday letter to Maryland state Sen. Bill Ferguson.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talks about the state’s response to coronavirus during a news conference on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Annapolis, Md.
(AP Photo/Brian Witte)

“These are serious crimes that require the most serious of consequences, which is why a judge or jury sentences the individual to a lengthy determinate sentence, life imprisonment, or life imprisonment without parole,” he wrote.

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Hogan stressed, however, that he is “a firm believer in second chances” and understands “that individuals who commit serious crimes, especially as juveniles, are capable of rehabilitation.”

Maryland Democratic Del. Jazz Lewis criticized the governor’s veto in a Friday tweet.

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“Gov. Hogan isn’t the only show in town,” he wrote. “We are going to override his veto of the Juvenile Restoration Act and make this bipartisan initiative the law! Thank you to Sen. Chris West and everyone who has been part of this movement to ensure children don’t die in prison.”

Hogan noted in his letter that he “was the first governor in 24 years to parole a juvenile serving a life sentence” and has granted seven paroles, two medical paroles and four communications for juveniles sentenced to life “since taking office.”

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He also issued an executive order requiring the governor to “consider a juvenile offender’s age at the time of the crime, demonstrated maturity, and subsequent rehabilitation to ensure they have some meaningful opportunity to obtain release,” Hogan wrote in his letter.

Advocates for the bill argued that it would have helped address the large racial disparity present in Maryland’s penal system.

“Over 400 people would be immediately eligible for this review, meaning they have already served more than 20 years for a crime they committed when they were under 18,” Lewis told Capital News Service in a January email. “Of this population, 87% are Black, which is the worst racial disparity in the nation. The Juvenile Restoration Act is therefore needed to begin to correct a gross racial injustice.”

Hogan handed several vetoes to state lawmakers Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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