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Juvenile Criminals Targeted

By: David Royse
State Capital Bureau

May 12, 1995

NOTE: See the main story CRIME.HTM

JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri lawmakers targeted teenage criminals in the 1995 legislative session that ended Friday.

From the beginning of the session, legislators and the governor made it known that this would be the year they got tough on kid criminals.

After some highly publicized violent crimes committed by juveniles, including the murder of two security guards at Lake of the Ozarks, legislators said they were fed up.

"The time has come when we can no longer accept that being young in years means being young in responsibility to society," said House Speaker Bob Griffin, D-Cameron.

Attorney General Jay Nixon and Gov. Mel Carnahan both stumped for tougher juvenile crime laws.

With that send off, the juvenile crime bill was declared to be on a fast track, but wasn't finally sent to the governor's office until the last week of the session.

It fell victim to political maneuvering on the concealed weapons controversy and differing opinions in the two legislative chambers about how far to lower the age for protection from standing trial as an adult.

Eventually, the compromise reached by the legislature would:

@ Remove the minimum age _ currently 14 _ for trying as adults kids who commit the most serious crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery.

@ Lower to age 12 the minimum age for trying a child accused of other, less serious felony crimes.

@ Allow a child of any age to face trial as an adult if the child already have been convicted of two or more felonies.

@ Allow a juvenile judge to determine the minimum length of time a juvenile offender must spend in a juvenile facility. Currently, the state's Youth Services Division decides when to release a juvenile based on the child's progress in changing behavior.

@ Provide public access to many juvenile records in criminal cases. Under current law, juvenile records are totally closed to public access.