Bills move forward that would allow resentencing for juvenile killers

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DENVER -- Two bills that would essentially allow convicted juvenile murderers to be resentenced was at the center of dueling news conferences Monday afternoon.

SB-180 and SB-181 would grant early release to juveniles convicted of murder who were sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 2006, Colorado abolished the practice of sentencing juveniles to life, but the sentences to at least 47 offenders remain unchanged.

Colorado district attorneys representing three jurisdictions and representatives of at least three victims advocacy groups stood together against the bill during a news conference and condemned the piece of proposed law.

“These bills are ridiculous, unconscionable. This process is a travesty,” Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May said.

The bills were introduced late last month and were received with emotionally charged testimony from the families of murdered victims and the families of the offenders. Amendments were made and weeks later, the bill is one step short of passing the State Senate.

The trio of district attorneys are blasting the bills’ text for illegalities and putting the public's safety at risk.

George Brauchler, DA of the 18th Judicial District, cited a convicted killer in his jurisdiction as an example. According to Brauchler, under the new bills, Terrance Wilder could be eligible for early release. Wilder was convicted for killing two ministers in 1998.

“This is a bill that would work to put him in a position in a very short period of time to rejoin the public on our streets. That is unjust and is also dangerous,” Brauchler said.

Supporters of the bills got wind of the late afternoon news conference and responded by also holding an impromptu news conference.

Carrie Thompson, the policy coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said the DAs are not sharing the full story.

“The victims’ families a lot of times have been given misinformation by the various groups to include the district attorneys to include the various victim’s groups,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of victims’ families that testified in support of these bills."

One of those was Gordon England, the father of Joel Alexander England, one of the two men Wilder killed 18 years ago. England said he forgives the man who took his son’s life.

“We are looking forward to the time where we can help getting him into networks that will be educational and rehabilitative,” England said.

The bills passed second readings in the Senate on Monday. A third reading will be held Tuesday morning. If they pass, the bills are expected to go in front of the House Judiciary Committee as early as Thursday.

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