Legislature reconsidering life sentences for state's youngest offenders

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by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on February 27, 2013 at 8:30 PM

The state legislature is reconsidering life sentences for our state's youngest offenders. A recent US Supreme Court ruling found them unconstitutional. A bill before the state house could mean convicted killers once put away for life would be released after serving 20 years.

These days, the people who come to the place where 8-year-old Michael Busby died are mostly the people who work there now. An office park replaced the once vacant lot, the site of a gruesome murder.
 
"I remember going to work that day and seeing neighbors combing the neighborhood," recalls Nicole Brown.
 
Eleven years ago Busby followed his neighbor, 15-year-old Ryan Alexander, to the empty field near their homes. It was there that Alexander tied up the boy, injected him with insulin, choked him and cut him with a razor blade.
 
"It was like wow, how could this happen with someone we know, who was always a little odd. But you'd never the think the worst," said Lisa Lewis, who lives in the neighborhood.
 
Tried as an adult for aggravated murder Alexander was sentenced to life in prison-- no possiblity of parole, or so everyone thought. Depending on what lawmakers decide, it's possible Alexander could be out in nine years.

Alexander's defense attorney in the case, Eric Weight, believes the change is long overdue.

"It's the offense only that seems to be defining the punishment," he said.
 
Court documents showed Ryan Alexander was a troubled kid. Current law removes the death penalty but mandates a life sentence for juveniles convicted of aggravated first degree murder.
 
"How can you sentence a child to life without parole if you haven't looked at how he got there," argues Weight.
 
A senate version of the bill supported by prosecutors would require a minimum sentence of 30 years for a juvenile convicted of aggravated first degree murder. The judge would still be allowed to reimpose a life sentence, provided any mitigating factors are considered.
 
Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachern has gone on record to say the house bill would go too far. He believes Ryan Alexander got what he deserved. McEachern is concerned about the prospect of Alexander serving anything less than life.
 
Back in the neighborhood where the boys lived-- residents hope to forgive, but will never forget.

"Everyone deserves another chance I suppose," said Lewis. "It just depends on who he (Alexander) is now."

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