Juveniles convicted of premeditated murder could be sentenced from 40 years to life in prison under a bill moving forward in the Unicameral.
Legislators debated LB 44 for hours, attempting to find the right balance in sentencing juveniles convicted of killing someone; a balance between punishment and potential rehabilitation.
Lawmakers earlier rejected a minimum sentence of 60 years in prison, but also seemed a bit squeamish about 30 years in prison, finally settling on 40. Under a 40-year prison sentence, someone convicted of murder as a juvenile could become eligible for parole after serving 20 years.
Judiciary Committee Chairman and sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, expects the compromise to hold during another round of debate.
“I think it will stick through the body and, hopefully, the governor will sign it and then the judges will have to go to work with these 27 cases that are out there,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Twenty-seven juveniles are serving life sentences in Nebraska. Their cases will be reviewed in light of a U-S Supreme Court decision that ruled only offering life in prison without parole in juvenile murder cases is unconstitutional.
LB 44 advanced on a 30-to-2 vote with 11 senators abstaining. It must pass another round of debate before it comes up for a final vote.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]