No need for this juvenile change

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger is right about legislation at the state Capitol aimed at reducing the life sentences of 48 people convicted of murders they committed as juveniles.

There is no reason these violent killers deserve lighter sentences. It would be unfair to the families of their victims, who at least have had the satisfaction of knowing the killers would remain in prison for the remainder of their lives. And it would be a mistake for society as a whole to suddenly declare to these murderers, “Sorry, we were too tough on you.”

Hautzinger pointed to Mesa County’s only representative on the list of 48, Verle James Mangum. He was 17 when he brutally bludgeoned to death Janet Davis and her 11-year-old daughter, Jennifer, in 1996. He was tried and convicted of the double murder in 2003 and sentenced to life without parole. If he had been a few months older in 1996, he would have been an adult and there would be no question about reducing his sentence now. Why should it be reduced because he was 17 at the time?

The answer, according to several Front Range lawmakers behind the bill, is that a 2006 change in state law allowed juveniles convicted of murder in adult court subsequent to 2006 to be eligible for parole after 40 years.

But the 2006 law wasn’t meant to be retroactive for juveniles convicted of murder prior to that year.

People like Mangum, who committed violent, heinous murders, deserve to remain behind bars for the remainder of their lives because of the lives they stole from their victims.


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