Juvenile life sentences debated at Louisiana Capitol
BATON ROUGE- Family on both sides of a 2005 murder case had to sit through a second sentencing in a Baton Rouge courtroom Wednesday.
Judge Richard Anderson told 28-year-old defendant Anthony Johnson "it doesn't appear the defendant has changed much" since being convicted of a murder he committed at age seventeen.
Johnson was resentenced to life without parole Wednesday, a move Anderson hoped would satisfy a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The victim's parents, Mary and Steve Magee said they don't expect this case is over because Louisiana lawmakers are still debating prison sentences for juvenile criminals.
"I miss my son, I've missed him for 12 years. His sentence was permanent as was ours," Mary Magee said.
Mary and Steve Magee hold a 2007 calendar marking the date when their son's killer, Anthony Johnson, was first sentenced to life without parole.
In 2007, Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting 22-year-old Daniel Magee in 2005 as the two road together in Magee's truck on River Road. Then Johnson was given a mandatory life sentence without the chance of parole.
That sentence was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years. The court ruled such automatic life sentences are unconstitutional for people who committed crimes before they turned 18 years old.
"The major part of the decision is that they were youngsters when they killed and they didn't have sound judgment," District Attorney Hillar Moore said Wednesday.
In response to the high court's ruling, Judge Anderson considered Johnson's behavior in prison over the past 10 years before resentencing. Anderson said Johnson had 39 violations in prison including assaulting a guard, smuggling drugs, and being sexually inappropriate with a female guard.
Anderson ruled Johnson had not shown improvement in his character and gave him the same sentence he had originally received.
"This was the poster child for the person who has not helped himself. Therefore he earned this sentence today," Moore said.
Johnson still has a chance at parole as the Louisiana legislature works to change state laws to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. Under a current proposal by Senator Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), any juvenile convicted of second-degree murder will have a chance of parole after 30 years.
"If it's a child going in and a grown-up coming out, it's a difference. So I do think they should get a second chance at life," said Delane Jones, Johnson's mother .
Under its current language, Claitor's bill would trump Wendesday's court sentence. So far it has only passed through one committee, not meeting strong opposition from district attorney groups. Claitor emphasized the "legislation is still fluid and subject to change."
"I would like to challenge the lawmakers to talk to more victims and their families," Magee said at the courthouse.