EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cyntoia Brown & the "51-To-Life" Project: Nebraska

This is the twenty-eighth in a series of posts on the "51-To-Life" Project. In Tennessee, if a juvenile is convicted of first-degree murder, there are two sentencing options: (1) life without the possibility of parole; or (2) life with the possibility of parole, with that possibility only existing after the juvenile has been incarcerated for 51 years. In this post, I will explain why Nebraska treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee. 

Nebraska still allows courts to sentence juvenile homicide offenders to life without parole sentences. In 2013, however, Nebraska enacted Section 28.105.02 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes. It states that

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the penalty for any person convicted of a Class IA felony for an offense committed when such person was under the age of eighteen years shall be a maximum sentence of not greater than life imprisonment and a minimum sentence of not less than forty years' imprisonment.

(2) In determining the sentence of a convicted person under subsection (1) of this section, the court shall consider mitigating factors which led to the commission of the offense. The convicted person may submit mitigating factors to the court, including, but not limited to:

(a) The convicted person's age at the time of the offense;

(b) The impetuosity of the convicted person;

(c) The convicted person's family and community environment;

(d) The convicted person's ability to appreciate the risks and consequences of the conduct;

(e) The convicted person's intellectual capacity; and

(f) The outcome of a comprehensive mental health evaluation of the convicted person conducted by an adolescent mental health professional licensed in this state. The evaluation shall include, but not be limited to, interviews with the convicted person's family in order to learn about the convicted person's prenatal history, developmental history, medical history, substance abuse treatment history, if any, social history, and psychological history.

Furthermore, Section 83-1, 110(1) states that

Every committed offender shall be eligible for parole when the offender has served one-half the minimum term of his or her sentence as provided in sections 83-1,107 and 83-1,108. The board shall conduct a parole review not later than sixty days prior to the date a committed offender becomes eligible for parole as provided in this subsection, except that if a committed offender is eligible for parole upon his or her commitment to the department, a parole review shall occur as early as is practical. No such reduction of sentence shall be applied to any sentence imposing a mandatory minimum term.

Therefore, a juvenile homicide offender can be given a minimum sentence of 40 years incarceration and would be eligible for parole after serving half of her sentence; a juvenile homicide offender could thus be released after serving 20 years. As a result, Nebraska treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.



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