Fallin vetoes bill keeping no-parole sentences for juveniles

Gov. Mary Fallin.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday evening that would have permitted the state to continue sending juvenile offenders to prison with no chance for parole.

The veto came despite support for the bill from the state's district attorneys.

Fallin vetoed the bill that would have removed the jury from its role in sentencing offenders younger than 18 and put the responsibility solely in the hands of a judge. Oklahoma prosecutors argued it should remain an option for certain young offenders.

Many states across the country are eliminating no-parole sentences for crimes committed before an offender turns 18 after the U.S. Supreme Court said such sentences should be reserved for the "rarest of juvenile offenders."

In vetoing the legislation, Fallin said in her veto message to lawmakers that the bill, in her opinion, still violates the high court ruling and a similar subsequent ruling by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Oklahoma has at least 41 inmates serving no-parole sentences for crimes committed when they were 17 or younger.

Now in her final year in office, Fallin has increasingly made reducing the state's prison population a top priority and pushed for changes to the state's harsh sentencing laws that have pushed Oklahoma to the second-highest incarceration rate in the country, behind only Louisiana.

Before the Supreme Court ruling on no-parole sentences for juveniles in 2012, five states banned such sentences. There are now 20 states and the District of Columbia that prohibit them, including neighboring Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.

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The Gayly. May 12, 2018. 9:26 a.m. CST.