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U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Bostic case on long sentences for juveniles

A photo portrait of a Bobby Bostic, who is seated and wearing a gray prison uniform.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
The U.S. Supreme Court will not consider whether a 241-year sentence given to Bobby Bostic, pictured here in February 2018, is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not consider the constitutionality of a 241-year prison sentence given to a St. Louis man more than two decades ago.

The high court on Monday announced it would not hear the case of Bobby Bostic. The justices gave no reason for their decision.

Bostic was 16 when he and a friend shot and wounded two men during a 1995 robbery in south St. Louis. He was 18 when then-Circuit Judge Evelyn Baker sentenced him to 241 years in prison, with parole eligibility at the age of 112.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that juvenile defendants could not be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide crimes. But the high court left open the question of whether it is constitutional for young defendants to receive multiple long prison sentences for violent crimes that will keep them in prison until after their natural life span.

Advocates for juvenile sentencing reform had hoped the justices would use Bostic’s case to weigh in on the issue. Baker, who is now retired from Missouri's 22nd Circuit Court, joined a brief by outside groups asking the high court to do so. She now says her sentence was too long.

But Tony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said he wasn’t surprised the court declined.

“It’s extremely disappointing, of course, because we know and care about Mr. Bostic,” Rothert said. “But the Supreme Court takes very few cases, and often lets issues percolate in the states for many years before resolving conflicts.”

Bostic has other options, Rothert said. He could ask Gov. Eric Greitens for clemency. The Missouri General Assembly could pass a law giving him and other defendants in the same position the right to ask for an earlier parole hearing. Or he can take the case all the way through the federal court system, instead of asking the Supreme Court directly.

Baker said in a statement that she would “continue to do everything I can to get Bobby’s sentence reconsidered.”


A screenshot from the list of orders issued by the U.S. Supreme Court that shows the justices denying the case of Bobby Bostic
Credit Screenshot | U.S. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court gave no explanation for their decision not to hear Bostic's case.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.