Sentenced in Missouri in 1997 at the age of 16 for his role in 18 crimes, Bobby Bostic is currently serving a 241-year sentence under which he is ineligible for parole until he is 112 years old.“Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of St. Louis Man with 241-Year Prison Term,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 2018.
The Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida in 2010 that youth sentenced for crimes other than murder must have “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010).
But in April, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Bostic’s appeal, in which he asked the Court to overturn his 1997 sentence as unconstitutional.
In the months leading up to the Court’s denial, retired Missouri Circuit Court Judge Evelyn Baker, who sentenced Bostic, publicly expressed regret over her decision in a Washington Post op-ed published in February, saying she hoped that the Supreme Court would hear Bostic’s appeal.Evelyn Baker, “I Sentenced a Teen to Die in Prison. I Regret It,” Washington Post, February 13, 2018. “I see now that this kind of sentence is as benighted as it is unjust,” she wrote, outlining what she has since learned about teens’ developing brains and their capacity for reform.Baker, “I Sentenced a Teen to Die in Prison,” 2018. Baker was not alone in advocating for Bostic’s appeal. Seventy-five criminal justice leaders—including former U.S. solicitors general Kenneth Starr and Donald Verrilli, former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, and former FBI Director William Webster—filed an amicus brief challenging Bostic’s sentence on the grounds that it violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.Bostic v. Dunbar (Bostic v. Pash), No. 17-912, cert. denied, April 23, 2018 (Brief of Amici Curiae Former Judges et al. on Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed March 15, 2018); and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “75 Judges, Prosecutors, Probation, Corrections, and Law Enforcement Leaders Call on Supreme Court to Reject 241-Year Sentence for Juvenile,” ACLU, March 15, 2018. Expressing disappointment in the wake of the Supreme Court declining to hear the appeal, the ACLU said, “Mr. Bostic should get a chance to show that crimes he committed at 16 do not define him.”Tony Rothert, “ACLU of Missouri Statement on SCOTUS Not Taking Bobby Bostic’s Case,” ACLU, April 23, 2018.