Oklahoma lawmakers to consider re-sentencing for juveniles serving life without parole

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to grapple with how to respond to the line of Supreme Court cases dealing with offenders who killed as teenagers and are now serving life without parole.

The Supreme Court ruled life without parole should be reserved for the “rarest of juvenile offenders.”

Now, more than 40 Oklahoma inmates could have their sentences reduced.

Tucker McGee was sentenced to life without parole for the 2012 murder of Jaray Wilson.

His sentence was reduced to life in June 2018.

But most of the cases are at a standstill without any guidance from the higher courts.

State representative Emily Virgin, D-Norman is working with the District Attorneys Council to come up with a uniform plan for a big problem.

For example, in Oklahoma County, two recent cases had two different outcomes.

In one case, the judge gave an offender serving life without parole a new judicial hearing.

In a different case, with a different judge, that offender serving life without parole was granted re-sentencing by a jury.

Both cases are up on appeal.

“We’re hoping the Court of Criminal Appeals will give us some guidance on what those hearings are supposed to look like, where they’re going to take place, if they have to be in the district, or whether they can be parole eligible,” Rep. Virgin said.

District Attorney Jason Hicks has three cases that’ll be impacted.

He told News 4 Wednesday that “the retroactive piece [of the ruling] has more questions than answers at this time…”

Hicks added that the District Attorneys Council wants to make sure life without parole for juveniles stays on the table moving forward.

It’s a tough balancing act for the new legislative session.

“Victims’ families are changed forever by these acts, and I can understand that they may never forgive, they may never want that person to get out of prison, but my job as a legislator is to look at what is best for our state. Is it best to keep these people locked up even if they have been rehabilitated and could be productive members of society? I don’t think so,” Rep. Virgin said.

For cases moving forward, under Rep. Virgin’s bill, those juveniles sentenced to life without parole would be given a “second chance” hearing a certain number of years into the sentence for the judge to review the case including whether the offender is incapable of being rehabilitated.

Discussions with the District Attorney’s Council on the legislation are ongoing.

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