In 1997, Bobby Bostic was sentenced to 241 years in prison for two armed robberies he committed at age 16. The heavy sentence was handed down by Evelyn Baker, a retired Missouri circuit court judge: “You will die in the Department of Correction.” Baker said at the time of trial. Now, more than two decades later she regrets her decision. 

In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post, Baker speaks out about her decision. Bostic and his friend robbed a group of six people, shots were fired, but no one was severely injured. Bostic wrote Baker letters, explaining his actions and apologizing for his mistake, but she believed at the time he did not demonstrate sincere remorse for his actions. 

“You are the biggest fool who has ever stood in front of this court. . . . You made your choice. You’re gonna have to live with your choice, and you’re gonna die with your choice. . . . Your mandatory date to go in front of the parole board will be the year 2201. Nobody in this room is going to be alive in the year 2201,” Baker said. 

Now, Baker said with advancements in technology and research in brain development, she has noticed flaws in her thinking and decision to sentence a youth to life in prison. 

"What I learned too late is that young people’s brains are not static; they are in the process of maturing. Kids his age are unable to assess risks and consequences like an adult would. Overwhelming scientific research shows that children lack maturity and a sense of responsibility compared with adults because they are still growing. But for the same reason, they also have greater capacity for reform," Baker said. 

According to the The American Legislative Exchange Council, trialing juveniles as adults is an ongoing debate. As of now, 41 states treat 17-year-olds as juveniles — New York and North Carolina treat 16-year-olds as adults. Other states, like Louisiana and Georgia, will go as low as sentencing 14-year olds as adults for crimes such as rape and murder. 

Bostic's case is being reconsidered this week, and he might have a chance at life outside of prison. 

"The court should take the case and give Bostic the chance I did not: to show that he has changed and does not deserve to die in prison for something he did when he was just 16," Baker ended.